Frye Hall; Women's Literary Union and Rossini Club

  • Fryehall

Frye Hall; Women’s Literary Union and Rossini Club

(former, now Holiday Inn By the Bay)

78 Spring Street

Frye Hall was the home of the Women’s Literary Union, founded in 1889 by Eunice Nichols Frye (site SD07), by combining ten smaller clubs to form its core. The goals were “to stimulate the intellectual and cultural life of its members” through discussion of issues of the day and literary topics. An early project was to provide statuary and pictures for the public schools. George Frye, Eunice’s husband, gave the Union its own building in 1916, which it used as its headquarters until 1971, when the building was sold to the Holiday Inn. The Union moved to the Josephine S. Abplanalp Library at the former Westbrook College on Stevens Avenue (site SA02), now the University of New England’s Portland campus

The Portland Rossini Club, the oldest musical club in the United States whose members are all women, was founded in 1869 with a goal of “mutual improvement in the art of music.” It also met in Frye Hall after 1916.

The club began admitting men in the late 1980s, but all the officers are still women. Longtime members of the Rossini Club have included Ocy Downs, who was born in 1905 and joined the Club in the 1920s. She taught piano in Portland for more than 60 years, beginning with a studio at the Trelawny Building (site S07). The club holds an annual scholarship competition in the spring for southern Maine students, ages 17-25, registered as university music majors for fall. It awards the Lucia A. Wright Piano Prize, the Barbara C. Littlefield Vocal Prize, and the Emily K. Rand Instrumental Prize.