Century-old Stanton library recognized for role in history
STANTON, Neb. (AP) — For more than 100 years, children and adults have climbed the steps of the red brick building, opened the door and entered the wonderful world of books.
Now, that building that was a place of refuge during the Great Depression, hosted Red Cross meetings during the “Great War” and World War II and now gives patrons a window into the World Wide Web is being recognized for its contributions to the betterment of the community.
The building in question is the Stanton Public Library, which was just recently placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We’re excited about it,” said Laura Hess, the library director.
The National Register of Historic Places is the country’s list of properties deemed worthy of recognition. Those reasons include its association with a noted person or event, its distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or it represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic value.
The Stanton Public Library is eligible for its association with events that have significant contribution to a broad pattern of history, said David Calease, National Register coordinator for History Nebraska, formerly the Nebraska State Historical Society.
“After its construction, the library was a source not just for education, but also was a gathering place for various social groups in the community,” Calease told the Norfolk Daily News .
The Stanton Library dates back to 1866 when John Borland donated his collection of 300 books to create it. In time, the collection grew to more than 1,400 books. Then, membership was $5 with a $1 yearly subscription.
Unfortunately, the facility closed after two years.
In the early 1900s, Mrs. Charles McLeod and W. H. Hyland, superintendent of Stanton County Schools, began opening another library. By November 1902, the library had 800 volumes. The membership rates were the same as the first library — $5 membership with an annual subscription of $1.
In 1913, the process of acquiring funding for a new library building from the Andrew Carnegie Corp. began. The following April, the corporation agreed to provide $8,000 as long as the City of Stanton provided a site and made the library free to the public.
The city bought the land where the library and a church were located, tore down both of those structures and constructed the new building for just under the $8,000 received from the Carnegie Corp. Joe Rogers, the builder, followed the plans designed by James C. Stitt, a noted Norfolk architect. The new library opened in August 1915.
Although the building has been updated and modified through the years, it retains the character and style of a traditional Carnegie library. Upon entering, visitors can climb the wooden stairs to the main floor that houses the adult fiction and nonfiction sections or take the wooden stairs to the basement where the children’s books and periodicals are kept. The circulation desk on the main floor is original, Hess said. The circulation desk on the lower level was added when that area was remodeled in the 1980s.
Books are displayed on wooden shelves, some of which are original to the building. Shelves and furniture added through the years match the wood doors and moldings, Hess said.
“The building is in good shape,” she added.
Calease agreed. “The Stanton Library staff has done a great job of maintaining the property, and, as a whole, it still reflects its original design and construction,” Calease said.
And after more than 100 years, it still serves the community as a library and a community center.
Around 10,000 people visit the library every year, and around 12,000 items are circulated every year, Hess said. The library employs three staff members: Hess, Tammy Barth and Tammy Glaser.
While the listing on the National Register does not come with a windfall of cash, the recognition is an important point of pride for Hess and the community. At some point, a plaque noting the listing will be placed on the building.
It so happens that this is the first building in Stanton County to be listed on the National Register. But Calease hopes it won’t be the last.
“I’m sure there are more eligible properties throughout the county,” Calease said. “We would love to see the local interest in historic preservation grow and see more properties in the county be nominated for listing.”
One of the concerns people have about having a property listed is the notion that owners can’t make improvements or changes in any way.
“This is simply not true,” Calease said. “There is a level of review to protect historic properties from being impacted by federal undertakings, but generally it is your property, you can do what you want with it.”
Property owners are encouraged to be familiar with and follow the Secretary of Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and information published by the National Park Services that relates to preserving historic properties, he said.
“A lot of people are scared off of caring for a historic property because it costs too much or ‘it’s too hard,’” Calease said. “I would recommend talking to people who have spent their lives maintaining a historic property. It is a great way for property owners to understand what is and what is not appropriate ... and how rewarding it can be to care for a building with historic integrity and significance.”
Information from: Norfolk Daily News, http://www.norfolkdailynews.com