Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
Did you know that tomorrow will mark 105 years since the dedication of the Eckhart Public Library?
Beginning in the early years of the 20th century, various Auburn locals made attempts to establish an official public library for the city. They succeeded in 1907, opening the Auburn Public Library in an upper room (a rental) on the south side of the courthouse square.
But there were hopes for something a little more permanent. Andrew Carnegie, in response to a request for funding, offered to build a library for the Auburn, but the request was politely turned down when local businessman and library board member Charles Eckhart offered to fund the building’s construction himself.
Land was purchased between 12th and 13th streets, including “old School park,” described as “a beautiful grove of maples” in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. On May 13, 1910, the library’s cornerstone was laid, and Indiana Governor Thomas R. Marshal delivered an address for everyone who attended.
The original building measured 45′ x 60′ and stood two stories high, with a basement underneath the entire structure. The first floor housed the “library proper,” which consisted of the librarian’s room, a reading room, and all of the books (up to 30,000 volumes). The second floor contained the director’s room, a toilet room, and a “public assembly hall,” intended for the use of “all ladies’ clubs and all organization as have for their purpose the advancement of education or philanthropy . . .” This meeting room contained 175 upholstered opera chairs, a platform for speaking, and an Ivers & Pond piano.
The basement was designed to be a public museum, complete with 10 glass showcases, each 10 feet long and 30 inches wide. It does not appear that any exhibits were installed at the time of the library dedication in 1911.
The dedication service itself was held on Friday, January 20, 1911, at the Methodist church in Auburn, where it was said “every available space [was] occupied from the pit to the dome” with attendees. “America” was sung by the audience, and pieces were performed by the Hoosier quartet and Sheet’s orchestra. W. H. McIntosh gave the main address, and Dr. Lida Leasure gave the acceptance speech.
The Eckhart Public Library was officially opened to the public on February 8, 1911.