of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.
VOLUME XIV, NUMBER 3 (AUGUST, 1997)[
History of the North Manchester Public Library
by Davonne Rogers
Presented to the North Manchester Historical Society
October 11, 1993
I am pleased to tell you about the history of our
library this evening, but first I will tell you a little
about how I became connected to this library. I have
always loved libraries and began working as a clerk in
the Children's Department of this library in 1973 during
my High School years for $.90 per hour. (Luckily, I make
more than that currently!) I continued working part-time
at the library while earning a B.A. in English from
Manchester College graduating in 1978.
After graduation, I married and Brian and I moved away
for a couple of years. I worked at the Warsaw library as
a cataloguer for about 2 years, until we moved back to
North Manchester in 1980. Then I began earning a Masters
in Library Science from Ball State (they were accredited
in Library Science at the time), and became the
Children's Librarian at the Wabash Library from 1981 -
1984. I became the Director of the North Manchester
Public Library in February of 1984...soon I will have
been the Director for ten years, and I will have held
that position the second longest! As most of you know,
the Director here longest was Marie Creager who was here
almost 50 years; a record I won't even try to break!
Upon researching information about the library's
history, I came across a letter that Florence Freed sent
to me in 1987 summarizing the connections between the
Woman's Club and the beginnings of our library. Here is
a quote from the letter:
The Woman's Club was formed in 1893 by "Mom" Mrs. H. B.
Sheller in her parlor in the Sheller Hotel with her
inviting ladies of many prominent merchants, educators,
and professional men in the town. They studied
Shakespeare, famous authors, inventors and learned
people of a then growing America. Books of members and
others in town were loaned and collected and placed in
the parlor of a member, Mrs. T.C. Peugh. On certain days
of the week ladies of The Woman's Club took turns
serving as librarian and loaning out the books on hand.
Soon the club members felt it would be great to have
built our own library and they applied to Carnegie who
had offered to local communities the funds for such a
purpose. He granted their request providing they would
provide the site and land. The club members soon
launched a plan to raise funds.
They sponsored a community venture to raise funds by
putting on a lyceum course bringing in such attractions
as James Whitcomb Riley. Riley is said to have painted
barns in the area by day and read his poems by night in
the old Opera House on the second floor of the (later)
Western Auto Store. In this way, the goal of the members
of the Woman's Club happily provided the present
The Library began in the homes of members of the Woman's
Club in the early 1900s. Later, rooms in the Town Hall
were rented for library use, opening with a book shower
of 100 donated books. The town officially began
supporting the library through taxes in September of
1908 when a levy of $.05 per $100 of assessed valuation
was set. In 1909 the first Library Board was appointed.
The members were Laura Ginther, Leila Gingerick, Mary
Peugh, Ida Martin, Nellie Wolfe, Rose Noftzger and Della
Sheller. This Board, with the help of the Woman's Club
applied to Andrew Carnegie for the library building.
Between the years 1901 - 1917, Andrew Carnegie gave
2,811 free library buildings to towns. One thousand nine
hundred forty-six are in the United States and 164 are
in Indiana, one of which is ours. Indiana received more
Carnegie libraries than any other state.
The next step was to procure a site for the building. A
Location committee was appointed: Isaac Oppenheim, W.W.
Barnhart, and W. E. Billings were chosen. The Harter lot
on Main Street was chosen; $1500 in private donations
was raised, and the lot was purchased from Jacob Harter
in June of 1910.
I spoke with Dr. Bunker about her memories of the new
library building when the staff was preparing for the
80th Anniversary of the Carnegie Building. Dr. Bunker
remembers the site as a large formal flower garden with
rose beds toward the front.
A Building Committee was appointed: Isaac Oppenheim, Tom
Peabody, A.C. Wolfe, and I. E. Gingerick. Patton and
Miller, Architects from Chicago were chosen to design
the library. They also designed three other libraries in
Indiana - Linton, Eckhart Public Library in Auburn and
the library in Kentland. Dr. Bunker says the Board
requested $12,000 for the project, possibly including
costs for furniture, but Carnegie gave $10,000 for the
Ezra Frantz of the local Frantz Lumber Company was
awarded the contract in the amount of $7225.00 The
Frantz family continues to have an interest in the
library as Ezra Frantz's great-grandson, Joe Frantz,
currently serves on the Library Board of Trustees.
Our Carnegie building is not typical of most Carnegie
libraries but a hybrid of different styles. This library
building is listed in the 1983 edition of the "Historic
American Buildings Survey in Indiana," and is described
as "Unique among Carnegie libraries in the Midwest
because of its ecclectic style with medieval overtones."
Shirley Glade, a member of the Library Board, has
described the style of the building as "Dutch Baroque."
The twoends of the building represent bookends, -
appropriate for a library!
Typical Carnegie libraries were built in the Classic
Greek style with marble columns, a large flight of steps
leading to the entrance, and possibly a dome with
stained blass. The Wabash Carnegie Public Library is
representative of a typical Carnegie library.
The cornerstone for the North Manchester Public Library
building was laid on July 13th, 1911, with a cavity
containing the following items: 2 copies of the
"Journal," 2 copies of the "News," views of the business
district, a history of the library Association, a
picture of the Woman's Club, and a roster of the
businesses in the town.
An article in the July 12th, 1911 edition of the
"Journal" highlighted the event.
"The corner stone is of white marble twenty by
fourteen by twenty inches in size and will be laid at
the southeast corner of the building. For this occasion
the "Journal" man called upon Horace Smith, head mason,
and sought to get him to wear a high collar and a
swallow tailed coat when he spread the mortar for this
stone,but this he positively refused to do, claiming
that he had no swallow tailed coat, and that he would
not work in a high collar until there was different
weather, so that part of the celebration will have to be
The new building first opened on April 4th, 1912 with
Constance Haugen as the first librarian. In honor of the
new library, Dr. Bunker remembers people bringing
plants, bouquets of flowers and loaning personal
collections. Dr. Bunker and her sister brought a
collection of moths for display at the library.
The staff found the first patron registry for the
library, and listed among the names is that of Ladoska
Bunker as well as many other well-known community
leaders. In July of 1912, circulation of books was 674
and expenses for the month $4.75! Current monthly
circulation is usually 10,000 -12,000 items and expenses
Our Carnegie building is unusual in that the second
floor was originally built as an auditorium or assembly
room with seating for 250 people Dr. Bunker remembers
many programs that drew full seating in 1912, 1913 and
1914. She describes Shakespeare plays given by a single
man, J. A. Browne, who acted out "Merchant of Venice,"
and "Julius Caesar," but not "Twelfth Night" which he
considered to be too rowdy! She also remembers
travelogues presented by Otho Winger as well as art
displays and exhibits in the assembly room.
In the early years, several librarians came and went.
Marie Creager was first employed as an assistant at the
library in 1917, became librarian in 1919 and retired at
the end of 1967. Marie Creager drove the book mobile
which was purchased in 1923, and Dr. Bunker often
accompanied her when they delivered books to Servia,
Bippus and Liberty Mills.
About 1929-30 the Children's Department expanded to the
second floor and the assembly room no longer existed.
Also about the same time the new Central School was
built with an auditorium large enough to serve the
Other changes over the years include:
1914 Fire escape built on the back of the building
1922 First telephone in the building
1923 Bookmobile purchased
1929-30 Children's Department moved to second floor
1953-54 New floors in both departments
1961 Telephone added upstairs
1966-67 Dr. Bunker served one term on the Library Board
1968 Air conditioner installed
Basement lighting added and opened to the public
1969 Reading room upstairs furnished and carpeted
Book drop and parking lot added
1970 Copy Machine acquired
1976 Mural of "Alice in Wonderland" painted in the
Children's Department by Barbara Keller
1980 Building study conducted
1981 Library sign purchased with memorial funds for Sue
Reiff, long-time employee
About 1982 Library purchased Central School lot
1985 Basement area carpeted
1986 Main stairs carpeted
1990 Co-location study conducted
1992 80th Anniversaary of the Carnegie Building
celebrated with an Authors Reception
1993 Homebound Program began with funds received from
Library Services and Construction Act Grant. This helps
the Library to meet some of the standards of the
Americans with Disabilities Act
Continue to work on plans for the future including a new
building which would meet all requirements for all
In April of 1993 we were pleased to hear from Merlin
C. Finnell, one of the authors honored at the Authors
Reception in 1992. Here is an excerpt from his letter.
"It was in your library that I first had a library
card - 1922. I was almost eight years old and Miss Marie
Creager and her assistant Mrs. Fred Delk, allowed me to
sign out six books a day. I would go to the library
after school and spend time to read the current Boys
Life, National Geographic and Popular Mechanics
"The highlight of my library experience came last year
when you honored me, and many others by featuring us at
a reception. In my retirement I have authored 17 books
and in 1986 I had 'fun' writing nine "I Remember"
columns for the News Journal."
So, you see, the Woman's Club had an enormously positive
impact on North Manchester by making possible a library
which houses 30,000 items, and provides programs and
materials for all ages in an effort to enhance the
recreational and educational opportunities for the whole
Do You Have a Story?
Do you have a story of life in and around North
Manchester during earlier years? Other readers will
enjoy sharing your recollections. They'll probably be
inspired to remember some long forgotten story of their
own. Take some time to write down your memories and
either mail them to the editor of the Newsletter at P.
O. Box 361, North Manchester, IN 46962 or e-mail them to