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By Carmen Ensinger
It seems like just yesterday that the White Hall Council signed the first lease for the White Hall Township Library, but 99 years goes by in the blink of an eye these days.
Library Board President Cheri Madson and several other members of the Library Board were at the April 12 City Council meeting to ask the board to extend the library’s lease an additional 99 years.
“We want to leave everything the way it is in the lease now and not change a thing,” Madson said. “We don’t want to change a thing – unless you would like to change the lease from 99 years to 1,000 years.”
Alderman Norman Coad jokingly asked if they didn’t want to change some of the terms (referring to the city paying the utilities.)
“No, we want to leave everything just the way it is,” Madson said. “Remember, a couple years ago, we paid over $32,000 for the new windows, plus we paid for the repairs to the roof and the paint on the outside.”
Since, technically, the city is the owner of the building and is only leasing the space to the Library Board for use as a library, the repairs made and paid for by the Library Board, should have been paid for by the city and not the Library Board.
The current 99-year lease expires on July 8.
Under the terms of this lease, “after some discussion of the matter of any charge to be made the Public Library for their quarters in the new proposed Library Building, Alderman Staples moves that there be no charge made the Library Board as rent or otherwise for room in the Library Building, that the City is to maintain lighting, heating and janitor, etc.”
The council unanimously voted to approve another 99-year lease with the library.
Everyone loves a bit of history – so here goes.
White Hall was not fortunate enough to have Andrew Carnegie donate thousands of dollars towards to construction of a new library like he did for Carrollton and Winchester, so the construction of a new library was up to the townsfolks of White Hall.
But, even before Andrew Carnegie entered the picture, White Hall residents realized the importance of reading and making available books to its citizens.
The White Hall Township Library Association was organized on Jan. 17, 1876 as a stock company with shares selling for $10 each. Shareholders had free access to the library and those not having shares were charged a fee of $2.50 a year to use the library.
About $800 was spent to purchase books and provide necessities for the library, which was located in the upper part of the original Peoples Bank building. The first librarian was G.R. Adams.
There were originally 1,200 volumes on the shelves, but minimal income and lack of enforcement of library rules was not sufficient to keep it in good condition and in 1879 it only contained 625 volumes and the directors decided to close the library and give the remainder of the collection to the schools.
It would be 35 long years before the discussion of a new library would ever come to White Hall again.
In 1915, at a meeting of the Round Table, it was decided to start a new library. Each member of the club and any other interested person were asked to donate a book. In 1916, the library opened a room over what was then the post office. Miss Nell Strang was appointed librarian. Later, the library was moved to the Fox Building.
The White Hall Township Library came into being in 1917 through the people voting a half mill tax for its support, supplemented by private donations of money and books. It was under this organization that plans for a new library building were drawn and arrangements were made.
Mr. and Mrs. Seth N. Griswold donated the building. Mr. Griswold said that his wife had contemplated such a building before her death and that he intended to carry out the plans and specifications as nearly as possible at his own expense.
The library was built of the finest quality materials at a cost of approximately $30,000. The woodwork of the entire first floor is finished red oak. The building is 38’8” by 58’8” and is constructed of buff brick with stone trimmings.
As a side note, the cost to construct the entire building in 1922 was $30,000 and the Library Board replaced just the windows a few years ago and it cost them over $32,000 – for just the windows. Adjusted for inflation – $30,000 in 1922 is roughly $513,000 in 2022 dollars.
The building is located on the north side of Whiteside Park and was given to the city under the terms of the deal that the city council agreed to maintain the building rent free to the library board.
Sadly, Mr. Griswold passed away before the building was completed so he never got to see the dream he was completing for his beloved wife.
The cornerstone of the library was officially laid under the auspices of the White Hall American Legion Post No. 17 on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1922. The building was officially dedicated in 1926 with the speaker being Gen. Henry D. Hamilton of Providence, R.I.
The library, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, contains over 14,000 volumes and offers many periodicals, audio cassette books, DVD’s, CD’s and numerous reference books.
They also have an extensive genealogy file which contains dates of birth, death and marriages which have appeared in the local newspaper dating from 1869 to the present. These newspapers are on microfilm and are used in the library by people through the U.S. They also have other local history information available for use in the library.
The library provides computers with internet access free to library card holders. People who live within White Hall Township may obtain a card free of charge, while people residing outside White Hall Township have to pay a non-resident fee as set by the state. More than 1,500 people are library card holders.
As a member of the Lewis and Clark Library System, the library has access to unlimited materials through the interlibrary loan system.