HISTORY OF THE VETERANS MEMORIAL LIBRARY
The city of St. Cloud had been founded a year earlier by the Seminole Land and Investment Company of Washington, D.C. as a resort home for soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. When the land owners arrived, there was no place for them to live, so the War Deparmtent sent a car load of tents. One large tent was to be used for community worship and other gatherings. This tent, located at Massachusetts Ave. between 10th and 11th Streets, is where the Ladies Improvement Club met to organize on March 14, 1910.
1911 – Free Reading Room on Pennsylvania Avenue
In early 1911, a small 6’x12′ building on Pennsylvania Ave. was purchased by the Club from Mr. N. F. Bass for $75. It was christened “Free Reading Room.” Reading matter was placed therein and the women worked with their hands, putting up shelves and trying to make the place a comfortable reading room.
1911-1915 Library Collection moved to People’s Bank Building, then City HallSt. Cloud Drum Corps in front of Reading Room, ca. 1911 Fisk Collection
In a few short years, the library collection had outgrown the little building on Pennsylvania Ave. and it was moved first to the People’s Bank building and later to the second floor of City Hall at the corner of Florida Ave. and 10th St. The library had become an important focus of the Club and of many members of the community.
Many and varied were the means used to obtain money to buy books and carry on the work of the Club. At first, there were lantern slides, food sales, lectures, and personal subscriptions. Then followed tag days, lectures, serving ice cream on Saturday afternoons, parcel post days, plays, musicals, receptions, commission sales, banquets, selling of oranges, home talent shows, operas, sales of donated lots, lyceum and Chautauqua courses. The Club was successful in bringing some of the highest class of entertainments to the little city of St. Cloud.
1915 – Land on Massachusetts Avenue Purchased; Fundraising Began
In 1915, Mary George, president of the Club, consulted Judge W.G. Peckham, a good friend of the library, about the purchase of lots from the Seminole Land and Investment Company on which to build a library. The Judge secured Lots 4, 5, 6, 7, Block 160 for $700, reduced from $1400. These lots were held by the Judge for about a year until the Club could pay for them. The future location of the Veterans Memorial Library was thus established.
Funds for the library, deposited in the First National Bank, continued to come in until the failure of the bank on Dec. 31, 1917. From that time until the spring of 1921, particularly during war time, the Club turned its attention to Near East Relief, cemetery beautification, and Red Cross work.
By 1921, the library collection was bulging with nearly 3,000 books. About forty percent of the money held in the First National Bank when it closed had been returned. Fundraising began again in earnest.
In May 1921, W.G. King, a pioneer resident who had always been interested in the library and had encouraged the ladies, contacted every G.A.R. (Grand Old Army) Post in the U.S. for donations. Many posts responded and $1,183.83 was collected. The L.L. Mitchell Post of St. Cloud donated $100, followed by an equal amount donated by the W.R.C. (Women’s Relief Corps).
In December 1921, a Gala Day was held. Over $1,000 was raised by the Ladies Improvement Club.
1922 – Buiding Committee Estabished
By early 1922, it was determined that sufficient funds had been collected to justify the employment of an architect to prepare plans. Members of the building committee were: Mrs. Sam Brammar, Mrs. W.G. Peckham, Mrs. Clara Sims, John Somerville, W.G. King, and Mayor S.W. Porter. An outline of what was desired was laid before architects Miss Ida Annah Ryan and Miss Isabel Roberts of Orlando. The plans submitted by these ladies were subsequently accepted. The architects insisted on a motto. Carlyle’s, “The true university is a collection of books,” was chosen.
The contract for the library was let on April 5, 1922 to local contractor Pete Morgan. Contract price was $4,506.20. The “fond dream” of the Club was on its way.
In May 1922, the cornerstone was given and laid by Mr. Sam Brammar. Among the larger pledges were $500 from Mrs. Mary Prentiss and daughters; $100 from Judge and Mrs. Peckham, Mr. and Mrs. G.H. Flint, and Mr. A. Bass.
It was said that contractor P.E. Morgan and his organization of builders aimed to build the best building in town, and they did. The building is of Grecian style and is constructed of hollow tile with stained stucco exterior. It was well plastered and attractively decorated inside. The building consisted of one large room, divided at will by folding doors (still in place today); a Lincoln alcove for relics; a librarian’s room, a miniature kitchen; and lavoratories. It was lighted in the most up-to-date style with electrical wiring done by J.G. Gallatin and Earl Schofield.
Because of the interest of the G.A.R. posts, people began to speak of the library as the soldiers’ memorial, and it was officially and fittingly named the “Veterans Memorial Library.”
Feb. 17, 1923 – Veterans Memorial Library Dedicated
The Veterans Memorial Library was dedicated on Saturday afternoon, February 17, 1923. At the close of the Veteran’s Association meeting at 3 o’clock, some 60 G.A.R. members and 40 members of the W.R.C. marched to the library grounds where a fittting flag-raising ceremony took place. Mrs. Lou Hendrix, Ladies Improvement Club president and mistress of ceremonies, introduced the architects and the contractor, then presented the speaker, Judge C.B. Parkhill of Tampa. Dr. Gregory, Colvin Parker, Rev. L.M. Parker, and Mayor S.W. Porter also spoke that day, and an additional $450 was raised to be applied on the remaining debt of $800.
Veterans Memorial Library – 1923
From the day of dedication until 1968, the Veterans Memorial Library was continuously maintained and operated by the Woman’s Club of St. Cloud (name changed from Ladies Improvement Club in 1941).
1968 – Veterans Memorial Library joined the Osceola County Library System; Collection Moved
In 1968, the Veterans Memorial Library became part of the Osceola County Library System. In 1972-1974, the county moved the library holdings to a former bank building at the corner of New York Ave. and 10th St. The Veterans Memorial Library at 1012 Massachusetts had served as the city’s library for over 50 years.
From 1974 until 2000, the Veterans Memorial Library building was rented as a re-sale shop to benefit the Red Cross and also to other groups and individuals from time to time.
2001 – Veterans Memorial Library Building purchased by the City of St. Cloud
The Veterans Memorial Library was purchased by the City of St. Cloud in 2001. Through cooperative efforts by the City, the Woman’s Club and other organizations and individuals, plans were developed for its future use as a museum to house historic records and artifacts of the Woman’s Club, veterans organizations, and other civic organizations and individuals who have contributed to the development of St. Cloud.
Feb. 19, 2005 – Grand Opening of the St. Cloud Heritage Museum in the historic Veterans Memorial Library
The grand opening of the St. Cloud Heritage Museum, housed in the Veterans Memorial Library, was held on February 19, 2005 in a ceremony which mirrored that of the dedication of the building 82 years earlier on February 17, 1923.
The St. Cloud Heritage Museum is now housed in this historic building, but the name of the building shall always be “Veterans Memorial Library.”
Grand Opening – St. Cloud Heritage Museum February 19, 2005