North Manchester Woman's Club Creates a Library
North Manchester's first public library was begun in 1908 by the North Manchester Woman's Club.
Town history places the neophyte
library in the home of Mary Peugh (Mrs. Tobias) on Elm St.
Books collected from Woman’s Club members and other local
residents were loaned out to library members.
for library services grew, another site was sought for the
library. The Woman’s Club sponsored a book shower, and the
first public library opened in 1908 above the current town
offices in a room of the Town Hall with over 400 books: 125 from
book donations and the rest from traveling library collections
loaned by the Public Library Commission. Club members took
turns serving as librarian during library hours two afternoons
and evenings a week.
financial support of the library was the next step. The Woman’s
Club approached the Town Council for a tax levy of $0.05 per
$100 assessed valuation of town property which would bring $600
to the library in the upcoming year. The levy was approved. In
1909, an increase of the tax levy to $0.10 also was approved,
bringing $1,400 to the library.
year the first library board, comprised of Woman’s Club members,
was established. Board members were Leila Gingerick
(president), Laura Ginther, Ida Martin, Rose Noftzger, Mary
Peugh (vice president), Della Sheller, and Natalie Wolfe
(secretary). For many decades
it was a custom for a member of the Woman’s Club to be on the
Andrew Carnegie Donates a Building
In late 1909, after learning
that Andrew Carnegie was donating funds to build libraries, the
Woman’s Club contacted the steel magnate with a request to be
considered for funding. He replied in early 1910 with the
promise of a $10,000 gift for the erection of a building
provided that the town purchase a site and secure $1,000 of
funding each year for the management of the library.
The tax levy at the time was
enough to cover the amount required to manage the library, so
the Woman’s Club focused on raising the funds needed to purchase
a building site. Fund raisers included a lyceum course the club
organized at the Old Opera House which was housed on the second
floor of a Main Street building located at the site of the
present day farmer’s market. The course included programs with
such luminaries as James Whitcomb Riley who was reputed to read
poetry in the evenings to audiences for pay after spending his
days painting barns. W.E. Billings, local newspaper publisher,
and Isaac Oppenheim, department store operator, were among the
local business owners, many of them husbands of the club
members, who assisted in soliciting funds for the building
Isaac Oppenheim, W.E. Billings, and W. Barnhart were appointed to help the library select a suitable site. Private citizens raised $1,500 to purchase the Harter lot on Main Street. Soon after, a building committee of Isaac Oppenheim, Thomas A. Peabody, and A.C. Wolfe was appointed to help with the building project. Designs for the 4,500 square foot building were accepted.
Ezra Frantz of Frantz Lumber
Co., and the great grandfather of Joe Frantz, won the contract
to build the library. He and the Woman’s Club treasurer, Laura
Ginther, signed the contract in 1911.
Construction began with a cornerstone laid in July of 1911.
The cornerstone included pictures of the Woman’s Club, a history
of the library association, a list of library directors, several
copies of The Journal and The News, a roster of business firms
in the town, and a number of photographs of the business
district in North Manchester.
On April 4, 1912, North
Manchester Public Library's 2,300 sq. ft. Carnegie building
opened with 1,700 books. The Carnegie building,
significant in that it is one of the few libraries built by
Andrew Carnegie that featured an auditorium, served as the library through September 1995, basically unchanged.
In 1930, the children's department was opened on the second
floor, which had been previously used as the auditorium.
Services to Chester Township began in 1919. Four years later,
the library purchased a used Ford roadster truck which performed
as a bookmobile for rural Chester Township.
In 1995-96, the library board placed a protective easement on the building through the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, and the building was sold to Al Schlitt and Elden Stoops for their law office. The Carnegie building also has been placed on the National Historic Register.
Mary K. Peabody Foundation Donates the Library's Current
As the library's services and collections outgrew the Carnegie building, the library board considered other options. In 1979, the Central School on Fourth and Market Streets was demolished and, in 1980, the library board purchased the property from the school corporation in anticipation of building a new library facility. Concerns for the future of the Carnegie building, and funding for a new library, inhibited the progress toward construction of a new building.
In 1992, the Fort Wayne architectural firm Able Ringham Moake Park was hired to design a new building. A fundraising committee began the work of funding the project without raising taxes.
Two years later, the Mary K. Peabody Foundation learned of the need for funding.
Mary K. Peabody was a life-long resident of North Manchester and
the daughter of Thomas A. Peabody who served on the
Carnegie building project. The Foundation's grant committee
supported the construction of the library because of their
awareness of the important role the library played in Mary K.
Peabody’s life as a child. She also was known to remark that the
former Central School lot would be perfect for a new library.
The Foundation agreed to construct a 20,000-sq. ft. building
with the provision that raise a $1 million endowment for the
library operations. Money contributed during the fundraising campaign was diverted to a Library Operating Endowment
(eventually, $1.5 million was raised), which continues to grow and support the daily operations of the library. In recognition of their generous contributions to the Library Endowment, the community room is named for Glen and Eleanor Blocher.
Ground was broken for the library in July, 1994. Fourteen
months later, the contents of the library were moved to the new
location. The new North Manchester Public Library opened on Monday, October 9th, 1995.
In 1996, the Indiana Library Foundation
granted the “Partnership Award” to the Mary K Peabody Foundation
and the North Manchester Public Library. The awards celebration
was held at the annual meeting of the Indiana State Library
Association at their annual meeting in Indianapolis.