The following history of the Club Lafayette is taken from the souvenir book celebrating the organization’s 75th anniversary:
In the year 1913 at the city of Lowell, Mass., where the French religious, cultural and linguistic traditions were and had been very strong, a group of prominent Franco-Americans met to discuss ways they might strengthen and preserve their heritage. They decided to organize a Franco-American Club and, most fittingly, to name it after the great General Lafayette, revered among Americans of all backgrounds as a champion of American independence.
Club Lafayette was formally incorporated on December 4, 1913 with ninety -eight charter members.
The first location of Club Lafayette was 831 Merrimack Street and it was the scene of a Club gala celebrating New Year’s Eve on December 31, 1913. Members invited their ladies to this first of many successful occasions sponsored by the Club.
The next move of Club Lafayette was six years later in 1920 to the “Stone Castle” or “Bowers Castle” at 59 Wannalancit Street. From here, in favor of a more central location, the members decided on January 31, 1924 to move to 663 Merrimack Street, corner of Cabot Street. Here the upper three floors were comfortably occupied until April 28, 1939.
At this time, the present quarters of the Club (the old Fletcher Street Fire House at #465) were purchased. Clever renovations and tasteful accommodations make the Club rooms the attractive, modern facility we know today.
When the Club was first formed, bonds to the amount of thirty-five hundred ($3,500.00) dollars were subscribed voluntarily by the members without any great effort. This was an indication of the enthusiasm and spirit of the founders. Until the bonds were paid, only bond holders could be directors of the Club. Under the able leadership of Dr. Lamoureux and his first officers, the bonds were paid during his term of office or within two years.
Since its founding Club Lafayette has been most generous in contributing to many worthy causes. The United Fund, the American Red Cross, the Saint Vincent de Paul, the several Franco-American churches and schools, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Saint Joseph’s Hospital — all have benefited through gifts amounting to many thousands of dollars.
In 1936 our then president, State Representative Albert L. Bourgeois initiated a bill in the Legislature to have a proclamation by the Governor marking the anniversary of the death of Marquis de Lafayette to be known as “Lafayette Day.” This legislative bill was passed and each year the Governor of Massachusetts proclaims May 20th as “Lafayette Day.” Since that day the Club Lafayette celebrates the proclamation with appropriate ceremonies at an annual Lafayette Day banquet.
The Golden Jubilee of Club Lafayette was celebrated on May 19, 1963 with a banquet for members and their ladies at the Commodore Ballroom. Club President, Paul H. Phaneuf (former Superintendent of Schools in Malden and Dracut), grandson of a founding Director, Louis P. Turcotte, presided and recalled illustrious members and outstanding events in the history of the Club since its founding.
In 1968, Club Lafayette proudly unveiled an oil portrait of the founder and its first President, Doctor Joseph E. Lamoureux, whose work for the Club shall always be remembered. His son, Paul, a member of the Club, accepted this portrait.
That the Club Lafayette is an on-going tradition among Franco-American families in Lowell is well illustrated by noting that Paul Normandin, President of the Club in 1966, is the son of George Normandin, President in 1942, and grandson of the late Zepherin Normandin, President in 1918-1919. With such strong father to son support, the Club Lafayette must thrive.
The officers and charter members of Club Lafayette envisioned our Club to become one of the leading associations in the City of Lowell.
To achieve this goal, the purpose for which our organization was founded was to promote and engage in civic, cultural, charitable, educational, and social matters and affairs.
Over the years, the purpose of our Club has always remained as our main objective, in keeping with the tradition and wishes of our founders, to which we are indebted, for our success.
The Club enjoys a very high standing in the community. Among the members are many that have or have had prominent positions in political, financial, professional and business fields, all of whom, have played a conspicuous part in the development of the City of Lowell.
Here ends the story of the first 75 years of Club Lafayette as published in its anniversary souvenir book in 1988. What follows are the comments of this website’s compiler.
While many other Franco-American institutions are struggling to maintain their existence, members of the Club Lafayette, under the presidency of Emile Houle, took steps to insure their survival and in June of 2014 sold the property to their long time neighbor, the Greek Orthodox Church with the agreement that the club will continue its day-to-day operations with a rent-free tenancy while the church will have the reception hall and parking area at their disposal.
Unfortunately, this did not provide the intended cure and furthermore the arrival of the Coronavirus further complicated the situation. As a result, in an undated letter to the members, President John DeAngelis, announced that the Club Lafayette, after 107 years of existence, would close its doors on 31 May 2020.