St. Joseph Public Library, located in the downtown neighborhood of St. Joseph,
Missouri, is a two story building with basement which measures approximately 123'
along the east and west axis and 108' along the north and south axis. The library rests
on foundations of stone and brick. |
It is constructed of brick and reinforced concrete
faced with beige marble and limestone on its ornate exterior and is capped with a red
tiled roof which culminates in a skeletal glazed dome. The exterior of the building
has recently been cleaned with pressurized hot water and coated with Hydrocide tinted
waterproofing by Sonneborn, applied by Mid-Continent Waterproofing Co., Fort Scott,
Notable decorative features include a pedimented projecting central bay on
the primary facade embellished with Ionic Half-columns on bases, an entry loggia,
heavy almost Hanneristic voussoirs at the first floor level and Michaela
window surrounds capped with the characteristic Eckelian wreath motif.
The St. Joseph Public Library is significant as the building which has housed this
city's free public library for so many years and which served as the birthplace and first
location of the St. Joseph Museum, two leading social institutions of St. Joseph.
In addition, it is a fine example of civic architecture influenced by French Baroque
Classicism, designed by Edmond Jacques Eckel, one of the foremost architects of St.
Joseph and of the mid-western United States.
How it all began:
In May, 1887 Mr. Warren Samuels announced in the St. Joseph newspapers that he would
donate free use of a room in his building at 6th and Charles Streets for a library if
money could be raised for books. A subsequent campaign led by Mrs. John S. Lemon, Mrs.
T. F. Van Nattan and Mrs. George Hull raised $3000 by August of that year through the
sale of life memberships to the library at $50 each. The library opened November 8, 1887
and accumulated over 3,200 books by the end of its first year.
In 1890, Mr; Purdy Wright, City Clerk of St. Joseph, being impressed by city-wide interest in the organization of a
free public library, began circulating petitions to obtain a 3/10 of a mill tax to finance
such an institution, In 1891, this proposal was approved by voters with a margin of 6 to
By the 1890's the library had outgrown its small. Since state law did not recognize a library
as legal entity qualified to float A-bond issue for funds, the Library Board joined forces with
the School Board to plan a building to benefit both.
In March, 1900 a bond issue of $200,00 both for a library building to house the free
library and administrative offices of the School District and for other elementary school
buildings was submitted to the voters. It passed and construction began in 1901. The
new library opened on March 13, 1902.
The library has always been a center for information and assistance to clubs, schools
and local colleges. In addition, in 1907 it was designated as a depository for publications
of the United States Government Printing Office. This collection has grown to 78,024 items.
Moreover, in the files of the Office of the Superintendent of Schools are records of thousar
of students covering the years 1854 to 1981. These are used as a research resource by local
citizens interested in genealogy and local history.
A room in the basement of the library was reserved for use as a museum in 1902. It
was not until 1926, however, that a movement initiated by local college students, led by
their science teacher, Mr. Orrel M. Andrews, resulted in the establishment of a natural
science museum. By 1927, a Board of Directors was elected and the Board of Education
donated space on the second floor for the fledgling museum. It opened with 6,TOO exhibits,
anu by 1940 had a paid director.
Gifts and loans soon made the space inadequate so the museum moved to a building of its own in 1942.
It is now a city-supported, nationally accredited St. Joseph Museum with an outstanding American Indian collection.
The St Joseph School District, who owns this building, also has it's offices in this building
The downtown library has been totally remodeled
It really looks nice inside, glad they fixed it up instead of letting it deteriorate