Fannye Ayer Ponder, founder of the St. Petersburg NCNW Metropolitan Section in 1942 and close friend of Mary McLeod Bethune, was a teacher, activitist and community leader in a time when this type of visibility was not easy for women of color. It was during these times and conditions in the 1940’s, that Mrs. Ponder established a local affiliate of the NCNW, the purpose of which was to effect the integration of blacks into political, educational, economic, social and cultural life of St. Petersburg by developing competent and courageous leadership o Negro women.
Upon returning from a meeting with Dr. Bethune, Mrs. Ponder called a meeting with O. B. McLin, Dorothy Blanton, Mary Louise McRae, Ethel Monroe Moten, Carolyn Stitts and Charlie Mae Grogran Newkirk to strategize ways to meet, an unmet need in the community.
Mrs. Ponder arrived in St. Petersburg in 1925 with her husband Dr. James Ponder. She served as the Vice-President of the National Council of Negro Women, founded by Mary McLeod Bethune. Mrs. Ponder taught school for over 20 years. She taught Social Studies at Gibbs High School while heading up several community groups like the City Federation of Colored Women’s Club; worked as a Republican committee woman and helped build the Melrose Club House that also served as a place of refuge for young Women. Her accomplishments in over 40 years of service to her community and nation led to the declaration in June 1972 as Fannye Ayer Ponder Day by then St. Petersburg Mayor Herman Goldner.
Mrs. Ponder worked to make sure there was a NCNW council house in St. Petersbrg. The house was constructed in 1940 and became the first NCNW Section Council House in America, in 1946.
The Ponder House named after the prestigious founder, has been historically renovated and held a grand re-opening ribbon cutting ceremony on April 29, 2017.
In 1945, the St. Petersburg NCNW chapter bought the Ninth Avenue lot and later moved the building to its current site. On February 23, 1947, NCNW held the dedication of their new home and committed it to be used for development of youth. Over the years the building, while well utilized, came in great need of repair.
Thanks to then, Rep. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat who is married to NCNW’s Angela Rouson, was able to secure state funding to preserve Ponder’s legacy. Rep. Rouson with the urging of his wife and other NCNW members, pressed hard to secure historical preservations dollars to be able to start an extensive renovation project.
Other community partners donated material and services to complete the over six month long $100,000 dollar renovation. The renovations included a new roof, fresh paint, an ADA ramp, parking, insulation, air conditioning and updated electrical wiring.
The Fannye Ayer Ponder Metropolitan Council House was officially designated as an Historical Landmark in 1991 because the site met the criteria founded by St. Petersburg City Code Chapter 3511/2-35(d) for designation of a local historical landmark.
SPM holds it monthly meetings at the council house on the third Saturday of each month; the Black Pearls (Youth Council) also meets monthly at the council house. The council house is also used for NCNW community special events.