Just more than 100 years after its humble beginnings as a sewing class-turned-club, the Betsey Mills Club sits on the corner of Putnam and Fourth streets in Marietta as both a major historical and community staple.
Serving about 100 families annually, from infants to seniors, the club has come into modern day with fitness and dance classes, a swimming pool, camps and dormitories for women of the community.
Its staff of about 26 people, with new faces as well as ones who have seen the club through several milestones, all agree on its mission to serve the community as a resource that is unique in history.
The Betsey Mills Club still sits at its location on the corner of Putnam and Fourth streets 87 years after the building was officially dedicated.
Betsey Learning Tree preschool students play in the pool with instructors at the Betsey Mills Club during a morning class. The club offers childcare, infant care and pre-school classes for those as young as 6 weeks to as old as 5 years.
"Some businesses get side-tracked and lose their purpose, but we have remained focused on meeting the needs of the community," said Linda Lewis, executive director of the Betsey Mills Club. "The club has maintained the ability to adapt to the times while still remaining meaningful and meeting the needs of the people of today."
Betsey Gates Mills was born in 1853 just north of Marietta. Lewis explained that because she was one of the first women in the area to come into money, she used that to start programs to help women in the community, starting with the Monday sewing class for women in the community in 1898.
"She was truly ahead of her time," Lewis said. "She did not discriminate against anyone, regardless of color or ethnicity, and it truly made her a pioneer."
The Betsey Mills Club
Location: 300 Fourth St. Marietta.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.
1911: The site is founded under the name The Girls' Monday Club from a sewing class formed by Betsey Mills.
1916: Mr. and Mrs. William Mills donate the house on the corner of Fourth and Putnam streets to be the club's first permanent home.
1927: The present-day Betsey Mills Club is dedicated.
1950s: Betsey Mills Club starts offering child care for ages 3-5.
2007: Club adds infant care center.
2013: Club undergoes major renovations to electric and heating and cooling systems to replace 1920s steam heating system.
Mills died in 1920, seven years before her husband, William Mills, opened and dedicated the present day Betsey Mills club to her in 1927.
Lewis came to work at the Betsey in 2005 after previously working as a therapist, a job she said has similar ties in its capacity for helping people.
"When Betsey Gates Mills started it she had a vision of how it could benefit the women in the community and she saw the need for a place like this," Lewis said. "It's the culture we have that I try to keep in place."
With what Lewis describes as a low turnover rate, staff members like Kathy Bartlett, who directs the Betsey's Learning Tree Childcare Center, has history with the club that dates back much further than her employment.
"My husband and children all took swimming lessons here, we've all had our wedding rehearsal dinners here, and we've had several baby showers; there's a lot of our family's history here," Bartlett said. "We're all devoted to the Betsey."
In 1979, Bartlett was contacted by the club with an offer to start the Magical Make Believe Club for preschool-aged children to introduce children of the community to arts, languages and reading.
Then in 1992, Bartlett came to the club to teach preschool classes, and has remained ever since, and became director of the BLT in 2003.
"I miss the teaching, but I get to (coordinate the) program through the teachers and classes," she said.
Bartlett said she has seen quite a number of different directors, and lots of changes.
"(Linda) has done so much for us to keep going and continue providing for the community," she said.
Bartlett was also instrumental in opening the infant care center in 2008, where the club acquired the nearby building on Fourth Street for children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old.
An overall expanded fitness program, along with discounts on childcare and preschool and other classes and services all are available to Betsey Mills Club members.
"I love being here working with the kids, and parents love sending their kids here because they will be ready for school," said Lindsay Creighton, an assistant pre-school teacher who has been at the Betsey for a year and a half.
Today, the Betsey is nearing the end of a renovation project that has lasted just more than a year that will replace a steam heating system that has been around since the 1920s. Changes will include a total electrical upgrade for all buildings, replacement of the boiler system and installation of heating and air conditioning in the Learning Tree rooms.
Once renovations are complete, which Lewis said should be sometime near mid-summer, the dormitories available on the second floor of the club will be re-opened for use.
"The new things we've taken on have kept it interesting," she said. "We're all dedicated to the mission and to helping families."