Pacific Beach Woman’s Club’s century-old building put up for sale

The Pacific Beach Woman's Club building is at 1721 Hornblend St.

The Pacific Beach Woman’s Club has put its meeting hall — a 109-year-old building on Hornblend Street — on the market.

“We’ve been discussing [the sale] for several years — it’s not something that we’ve just entered upon lightly,” said Mary Lou Benzel, president of the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club and a member since 2000.

The club, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in March, was established to connect women living in the beach neighborhood who shared a mission of helping the community and contributing to philanthropic causes. In recent years, members have donated time and money to beneficiaries including StandUp for Kids, Toys for Tots and various programs offered at area schools.

For more than a century, members have been gathering for meetings and holding fundraising events in Hornblend Hall, a clubhouse built in 1911 on two parcels of land donated by members. Over time, the aging structure has become increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain.

“Most of the money that [the club] would raise through our fundraisers that we wanted to go to our charitable endeavors would end up going to fix and keep the club open,” Benzel said, citing unforeseen costs such as termite removal and window and door replacements, as well as general upkeep of the building.

The Pacific Beach Woman’s Club typically holds three annual fundraisers, including a wine tasting in the spring and a casino night in the fall. Though Benzel said the club had “seen the writing on the wall” for a few years about selling the building, the cancellation of this year’s events due to the coronavirus pandemic was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Benzel said the club’s 3,528-square-foot property, which includes three lots — two for the clubhouse and one for parking — was listed for sale at $1.5 million.

“That’s a lot of money for us,” Benzel said. “If we can get that invested and just live off the interest ... that would give us a good amount of money every year to make significant contributions to the people that we want to contribute to.”

Despite the decision to sell, the club doesn’t intend to leave Hornblend Hall right away.

“One of the requirements that we’re asking for from a buyer is that they allow us to still meet in the building for up to two years,” Benzel said. The group is requesting use of the clubhouse for monthly meetings and its three annual fundraisers. Other events would be held in members’ homes or at another rented venue.

The Woman’s Club currently has 61 paid members, with ages ranging from mid-30s to early 90s. Though the club’s events were canceled this year and its monthly meetings were forced online, five of the current members joined the group during the pandemic.

“There are still young women out there that want to have a meaningful relationship with charities. ... Hopefully we’ll go on for another 125 years,” Benzel said.