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The History of the Winter Park Public Library:

The Beginning

The Winter Park Public Library began when nine women, all "well educated, capable, energetic, and affluent, came together on the morning of December 9, 1885, to affix the stamp of organization to the Winter Park Circulating Library Association."  The nine women were:   Mrs. Elizabeth Hooker, Miss Evaline Lamson, Mrs. W.O. Cady, Miss Mary McClure, Miss Alice Guild, Mrs. C.J. Ladd, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Cook, and Miss Mary Brown.  The Congregational Church parsonage was the site for the organizational meeting.

The porch and hall of the Lamson house was the first site of the newly-formed library.  The house was located at 503 Interlachen Avenue, near the corner of Interlachen and Swoope Avenues.

The new library did not have a large inventory.  Some of the titles available to members were; The Scarlet Letter, The Last Days of Pompeii, Jane Eyre, Ivanhoe, andThe Rise of Silas Lapham.  There were also biographies such as Frederich the Great and religious titles such as Grace and Truth, The Blood of Jesus, Thoughts on Personal Religion and Scientific Theism.

Acccording to the constitutional provisions of the Winter Park Circulating Library Association, any person could become a member by paying one dollar per year.  Members could take out one book on Wednesday and Saturday and keep it for two weeks, with a one-week renewal.  There was a ten cent fine for non-renewal.  Those who were not library members could take out books if they paid a one dollar deposit plus ten cents for each week.  The library only operated from January to May.

One year after the library's founding, the officers accepted an offer to move its operations from Miss Lamson's porch to a room in the building occupied by the Winter Park Company on the southwest corner of New England and Park Avenues.

Not much is known about all of the nine women who founded the library.  Mary Brown and Mary McClure's biographies are the subject of a Web page within the Winter Park History and Archives collection, Mrs. C. J. Ladd was the wife of an early Winter Park merchant, Mrs. Clark was described in a newspaper article as a "wealthy lady from Minneapolis", Mrs. Cady and Mrs. Cook were from Bloomington, Illinois.

Elizabeth Robbins Hooker was born in Madure, India, in 1844 of missionary parents, Elizabeth's early years are not recorded.   At some point she returned to her ancestral home, Middlebury, Vermont, and probably attended local schools and Middlebury College.  In 1871 she married Rev. Edward Payson Hooker, a Congregational pastor, who would later become the first president of Rollins College.  Elizabeth devoted herself to family (six children), church, and community.  It was through Elizabeth's efforts that the first public circulating library was established.  The organizational meeting was held in her home, the parsonage, on December 9, 1885, and she was elected President of the Winter Park Circulating Library Association.  She died July 29, 1912.

Evaline Lamson was born in Jasper, New York in 1855.  Evaline attended Alfred University and Oberlin College where she studied art.  For health reasons she moved to Winter Park in 1885 with her mother and brother.  They built a home on the Southwest corner of Swope and Interlachen Avenues, which they ran as a rooming house in the early days of Winter Park.   It was Evaline who, at the first meeting in December of 1885 where the Winter Park Circulating Library was established, offered the porch and hall of her home as the site for the library.  She served as Secretary/Treasurer in the early years and became a driving force behind the library until her death in 1925.

Alice Guild came to Winter Park from Boston with her father, Dr. William A. Guild, in December of 1883.  In addition to being one of the nine women who founded the Winter Park Circulating Library, she also helped start the art department and taught art at Rollins College.  Alice, along with her sister Clara, was involved in many civic and college organizations.  Alice died June 28, 1949.

On January 31, 1900, Winter Park Circulating Library Association President, Eleanora Comstock, called a special meeting to consider a building and lot for the library.  A building fund was started and the first fundraiser, a Valentines party at The Palms, home of the Brewers, was scheduled.  Proceeds from that fundraiser amounted to $130.75 and the association moved forward with plans for a permanent library building.  The Knowles estate donated property on Interlachen Avenue and the library moved into the 20th century.

Photo of the Congregational Church parsonage in 1885. Congregational Church Parsonage in 1885
Photo of Evaline Lamson's cottage. Evaline Lamson's Cottage
Photo of Dr. Hooker, Mrs. Hooker and their son Stuart and Daughter Millie. Dr. Hooker, Mrs. Hookerson Stuart and daughter Millie
Photo of Miss Evaline Lamson. Miss Evaline Lamson
Photo of Miss Alice Guild. Miss Alice Guild

Return to Library History page

The Early Years ~ The First Permanent Building

Library Building 1979 ~ New Location on New England Avenue

Library Building 1995 ~ Third Floor Addition and Renovation


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