Throwback Thursday: The Auburn Public Library, Part 1

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Earlier this week, I was asked if I knew where Auburn’s library was located before it became the Eckhart Public Library we know today. Though we’ve covered a brief history of EPL on here before, the details surrounding its earlier years as the Auburn Public Library were still a little fuzzy, so I decided to do some detective work.

Here’s what I’ve found so far.

EPL Reading Room

We currently don’t have any images of the Auburn Public Library, so here’s a photo of the Eckhart Public Library’s reading room, c. 1910.

Prior to 1906, there had been several attempts in Auburn to establish a reading room or library, but none of them flourished, having insufficient financial backing to sustain them.

However, in 1901 and 1903, the state of Indiana passed a library law (and its amendments), which allowed any city council or town board of an incorporated Indiana city or town to levy a tax “not to exceed one mil on each dollar of all taxable property” to fund the maintenance of a public library.

HS HippensteelA few years later, in Auburn, Superintendent of Schools, H. S. Hippensteel, was busy educating the community about these library acts and promoting the idea of establishing a public library for Auburn. According to an article in the Auburn Courier, dated March 14, 1907, “Mr. Hippensteel . . . has probably done more than any one other individual in boosting the enterprise [of starting a public library].”

However, according to the same article, “a certain sum of money must be raised by popular subscription,” before that library could be legally established.

A group called the Thursday Evening Club took up the task, canvassing the city for subscriptions. Though they usually asked about $1 per person, two individuals—Frank and Charles Eckhart—contributed $100 apiece. In the end, the club raised the necessary $307.

Now Auburn could have its public library, but where would it be housed?

To be completely honest, I’m still trying to find the answer for that question, which I hope to have for you all in part two next week. For now, all we know for certain is that in 1907 the library was located on E. 9th Street, between Main and Cedar, though there have been multiple leads indicating it was in a room above a grocery store.

E. 9th Street - 1907

E. 9th Street, just south of the DeKalb Co. Courthouse – 1907 Sanborn Map

Whether this is true or not, we hope to find out. If anyone has any additional information to share, please do!

Want to see more local history? Feel free to search our online photo database, or head on over to the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page.

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About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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