Free Public Library, St. Joseph, Missouri

Free Public Library, St. Joseph Missouri, Pre-1915 Library Card No. 2643 issued to Orta Gabbert

Free Public Library, St. Joseph Missouri,
Pre-1915 Free Library Card No. 2643 (front)
Free Public Library, St. Joseph Missouri,
Pre-1915 Free Library Card No. 2643 (back)

Free Public Library, St. Joseph, Missouri

The Free Public Library of St. Joseph had its beginning as a membership library on the 2nd Floor of the Samuels Building at Sixth and Charles Streets.  The space was offered free of charge by Mr. Warren Samuels if money  could be raised for the books.  After a campaign led by Mrs. John S. Lemon, which raised $3000 through the sale of lifetime memberships at $50 each, the library opened on November 8, 1887.  The library inventory held over 3,200 books in its first year of operation.  In 1890, public interest in a free library grew and by 1900, construction on a new building began.  In the meantime, having outgrown the Samuels Building space, the library relocated to Tenth and Sylvanie Streets.  On February 9, 1891, with an inventory of over 5,500 volumes, the Public Reading room opened, followed by the opening of the Circulation Department on March 16, 1891. The library remained at the Tenth and Sylvanie Streets location until March 13, 1902, when the new Carnegie library building opened at Tenth and Felix Streets.  Designed by Edmund Jacques Eckle, the French Baroque style building features terrazzo flooring in the foyer, a glass-floored balcony, and a stained glass dome.  The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 20, 1982.

Free Public Library at Tenth & Felix Streets  built in 1902
(Photo: Edmund Jacques Eckle, Courtesy of United States Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division (no know copyright restrictions) 

Edmund Jacques Eckle

Edmond Jacques Eckel (1845-1934), was a French architect trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. He settled in St. Joseph, Missouri around 1870 and established the architectural firm of Eckel & Meier.  Other significant projects include. the German-American Bank Building (now Mosaic), the Corby Building (the tallest building in St. Joseph), the Paxton Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, and the Courthouse and “Squirrel Cage” Jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Orta Gabbert

Orta Allen Gabbert Conner (1901-1966), was a Missouri native.

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