As you drive north on Line Avenue toward downtown Shreveport, you will pass a large, red brick building with stately columns on the left. It’s very prominent and right next door to Shreveport Little Theatre. It’s called the Women’s Department Club and you’ve probably wondered, “What’s inside?” It’s quite breathtaking and rich in history.
The Women’s Department Club of Shreveport was founded in November 1919 by a group of women inspired by the city’s oldest literary club, the Hypatia Club. The club’s early years were focused on promoting education and cultural enrichment for women in the community. In 1925, the club commissioned local architect Clarence King to design a grand, elegant manor for its headquarters, which still stands today. The club, born of the suffrage movement following the turn of the century, was founded, and furthered by prominent Shreveport ladies who dedicated their time and effort to expose women to education, literacy, and equality opportunities in the local area.
The club boasted many “departments” such as education, arts, home learning and other skills for developing stronger cultural ties and advancement for women. Those early pioneers of culture had the foresight to create a 400+ theater atop the second floor of the clubhouse. This theater was used for lectures and performances, as well as other club related events. The club has supported the arts and artists in the area and has provided a space for cultural events and gatherings.
After struggling with the result of COVID-19, the club partnered with the Louisiana Grandstand in 2020 to help grow awareness and use of the historic building, affectionately known as the “Lady on Line”. What started with monthly concerts billed as the Shreveport Opry has now blossomed into a growing schedule of touring artists, showcases of regional talent and a hub of music development. This partnership has worked tirelessly to restore the building in many ways, including an installation of a new roof and other cosmetic repair projects beginning in 2022.
The WDC Dining Room is perfect for small gatherings of up to 50 people. The adjacent kitchen with dual swinging doors makes this the perfect room for seated dinners, supper clubs or entertaining of clients. The Dining Room is also perfect for occasional pop-up dinners, wedding receptions, bridal and baby showers, and tea-parties.
The Parlor of the WDC is adjacent to the Dining Room and can be sectioned off with pocket doors for smaller gatherings. Perfect for cocktail parties or club meetings, this area is adjacent to the foyer area where bars are generally set up for parties and other functions.
The WDC has a nice sized kitchen that can accommodate many arrangements and a full bar service for a private event. A 60-day advance notice is necessary for ticketed events to secure appropriate permits.
The WDC theater was built at the same time of the Strand Theater, which makes both facilities the oldest theaters in Northwest Louisiana. Today, the theater sits in almost pristine condition with an excellent space with incredible acoustics for musical and performances. More and more improvements are on the way that are positively going to put the WDC high on your list of “must visit” venues.
The Woman’s Department Club is still active today and meets every Thursday with their variety of programs and exhibits for its members. The patronage and enjoyment of the building with each of the events continues to help with the upkeep of the building and preserve an important historic landmark in our area. The WDC has been listed on the National Archives Historical List and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019.