The “objects of wonderment” placed in the Plattsmouth Public Library cornerstone April 19, 1916, will be revealed during the stone’s 100-year anniversary celebration April 23.
Plattsmouth Journal covered the initial laying of the cornerstone in its April 20, 1916, issue. The event drew townspeople to the site at the southwest corner of Fourth and Vine (Ave. A), home to the library since Nov. 1, 1916.
“The school children, assisted by Mrs. Mae Morgan as director and Rev. F.M. Druliner as cornetist, gave a number of stirring patriotic songs including ‘America’ and the ‘Red, White and Blue.’ The audience stood with bared heads as the stone was lowered into place by the contractor, J.W. Peeters. President A.L. Tidd of the library board had placed in the receptacle a number of documents that in later years may be objects of wonderment to the future generations as pages of bygone history,” Plattsmouth Journal reported.
Young Ladies Reading Room Association members spearheaded the opening of a library in Plattsmouth by first forming the association on Feb. 24, 1885.
“Twenty women of Plattsmouth met at the home of May Cramer for the purpose of organizing a young ladies social temperance society. Two weeks later on the third of March, the new society adopted bylaws and formally organized itself as the Young Ladies Reading Room Association, commonly known as the YLRRA,” reads an excerpt from “YLRRA 1885 to Plattsmouth Public Library 1985.”
Plattsmouth Public Library Director Karen Mier said the YLRRA met at different places for the first year including the second floor of Matthews Hardware Store, once located at Fourth and Main Street.
The members painted the interior and spruced up the place for meetings. “Because there was no electricity available, meetings took place during daylight hours. Coal oil lamps were brought in for extra-long sessions,” the YLRRA history states.
By the end of 1886, the YLRRA moved its headquarters to Rockwood Hall, between Fifth and Sixth on Main Street.
“On New Year’s Day, 1886, the new reading room was opened to the public and Plattsmouth had its first circulating library,” the history states.
By 1888, the library had 500 books and carried three monthly periodicals. Books were checked out for two-week periods at 10 cents per book. That year, the YLRRA turned over the reading room to the YMCA. Two years later, however, the YMCA disbanded and returned the books and furnishings.
From 1885 to 1900, YLRRA members sponsored fundraisers to generate income for the reading room. They had buttermilk sociables, milkmaid carnivals, card parties, leap year balls, talent plays and other activities.
Although the city initially turned down YLRRA’s requests to adopt a mill levy for the reading room, one passed on May 22, 1893.
The council passed an ordinance establishing a tax not to exceed one mill to be collected for a library fund. “People Will Read” was the headline in the Plattsmouth Daily Journal.
Olive Jones, one of the YLRRA’s founders, was appointed head librarian, a position she served in until 1940.
On Jan. 1, 1901, Plattsmouth Public Library moved into a new building constructed for $3,000 at the northwest corner of Fourth and Vine (Ave. A). More than 200 people visited the facility that day.
The site would only prove home to the library for 15 years due to the rapid growth of the library’s collections. “Total volumes tripled from 2,000 in 1901 to 6,000 in 1916,” YLRRA history states.
By 1915, the library needed more space. Tidd looked into establishing a Carnegie library for Plattsmouth. In turn, the Carnegie Corporation offered a $12,500 grant for the construction of a new library, contingent on the city furnishing a site for it and adopting a levy of at least $1,500 per year for maintenance and repair.
Peters and Richards were awarded the building contract for $10,470. The plumbing, heating and lighting contract was given to Warga and Schuldice. Fiske and Meginnis of Lincoln designed the building, Mier said.
When the new library opened at the southwest corner of Fourth and Vine, Plattsmouth Evening Journal called it “one of the handsomest buildings of its kind in the state and one that will stand as a monument to progress in the city and be an impulse to higher things.”
And so it has been with an addition in 1974 and a recently updated computer room and automated checkout system.
The two-story structure is also on the National Registry of Historic Places and part of the Main Street Historic District, Mier said.
To celebrate this 100th-year milestone, Mier, staff and Friends of the Library volunteers have planned a program with historic throwbacks to the “pride of Plattsmouth’s” beginnings. Activities will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23.
The public is encouraged to attend this history-making gathering.
See accompanying story for details of the April 23 celebration.