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The History of the Winter Park Public Library:

The Early Years - The First Permanent Building

On January 31, 1900, Eleanora Comstock, president of the Winter Park Circulating Library Association, called a special meeting to consider a building and a lot for the library.  The Association moved forward with a fund raising campaign.  By February of 1901 a subscription list for the building fund showed that 24 individuals pledged $1,216 toward building a library.  The building committee contracted to build a public library building, 24 by 50 feet in size, at a cost of $1,600.00.  The property on Interlachen Avenue was donated by the Francis Knowles Estate.  The building plans were drawn by Boston architect, George D. Rand, and the library was opened the last week of April, 1902.

Mrs. Eleanora K. Comstock came to Winter Park with her husband, William C. Comstock, in the early 1880's.  She was very active in the early history of the Winter Park Library Association, serving as its president from 1897 until her death in 1901.  In 1902, Mr. Comstock donated $200 to the library for a children's corner as a memorial to Mrs. Comstock.

The new library was one room, heated by open fireplaces located at each end of the room.  The library's books now numbering around 1300 were moved in.  The head librarian was Miss Evaline Lamson.

In 1902 a new Association president was elected.  Dr. William F. Blackman, who in April 1903 was installed as the new president of Rollins College, became the next Association president.  He would hold that office for the next 16 years.

The fortunes of the Association began to rebound under the leadership of Dr. Blackman and Charles Hosmer Morse, who took over the duties of the town's primary property owner.  Morse bought the remainder of the Knowles Estate's properties and invested money in revitalizing the town.  Prosperity was beginning to reappear and in 1914 the town council agreed to provide free electricity to the library building.  Mr. Morse donated $500.00 to add a kitchen wing to the library in 1914, and the city council was also asked to supply water to the kitchen and grounds.

In 1924 two new wings and a lavatory were added to the building, which in effect doubled the size.  By 1927 two librarians worked on a year-round basis, with summer vacation, at salaries of $50 per month.

In 1928 the Florida land boom faded and the citrus industry was hit with an infestation of the Mediterranian fruit fly. The Great Depression hit the country in 1929.  Money worries plagued the library.  The town council, which had agreed to give the library $1,000 a year, had to cut that amount in half, and the bank that held the Library's accounts failed.  An appeal for funds was sent out to members of the Library's Executive Committee, who were at their summer homes in the north.  The appeals were answered and the Library was on its way to financial prosperity by 1932.  The librarians reported that they were gifted with new books, circulation was up and the head librarian's salary was raised to $65 per month.

One of the biggest changes took place from the late 1930's through the World War II years.  The Library went from being more or less a private club to being a public library.  During the war years, a large community of military servicemen and their families used the library. After the war, many of the servicemen returned to Winter Park to build homes and settle here with their families.   In August of 1945 the Winter Park Herald noted that there was so much building during the month of July, that the $134,000 spent on building permits was a record for any month since March 1930.

The Library was now opened for limited hours six days a week and had a collection numbering 12,269 and a circulation of 33,214.  Popular titles at that time were Forever Amber,Gentlemen's Agreement, The Egg and I, Why They Behave Like Russians, The Great Rehearsal, A Light in the Window, and Always Murder a Friend.

The Hannibal Square Library was in operation at this time.  It was founded by Dr. Edwin O. Grover of Rollins College in memory of his wife who had been an activist in the cause of education for the black community.  This library, a vital part of the community for many years, closed in 1979 when the current library building was opened.

Charlotte Moughton Brunoehler was appointed head librarian in 1948.  She quickly went to work to try and reduce over-crowded conditions in the library.  She spent the entire summer of 1949 reorganizing areas within the building to accommodate the increasing numbers of patrons as well as maintaining all regular services and the Vacation Reading Club for Children.  She also made many other improvements to the library in the form of a new coat of paint, repairs to the roof and a new sign.  She served as the head librarian for over 30 years and provided the leadership and foresight that established high quality of library service for the City of Winter Park.

The Vacation Reading Club was under the personal supervision of the Children's Librarian, Helen Foley Fuller.  Each year she came up with a different theme.  In 1950 the theme was Treasure Island, 1951 was a Circus Club and in 1952 it was a Rodeo.  In the picture on the right, you can see a mannequin supplied by the Toggery clothing store, dressed as a cowboy and pictures of horses and other rodeo themes decorating the the Children's Room.

With growth and demand for services, the library had outgrown its home.  A new library was needed or at the very least an addition to the existing building.  A fundraising letter was sent out and by January of 1956, the board first viewed plans for the Children's Room.   It was to be constructed of concrete block with aluminum windows.  On November 1, 1956, the public was invited to the library for an open house to see the newly completed Children's Room.   Then in 1957 work began on a central section, built in front of the old library, facing Interlachen.  The completion of the new library building was celebrated on March 20, 1959.  The new section was fully air-conditioned, had mint-green walls, terrazo floors and a walled garden established by the Winter Park Garden Club.  This library building served Winter Park well into the 1960's and early 1970's when space, both inside and outside the library, became a major issue again.

February 17, 1970, the Library expanded again with the dedication of the Mary Brownlee Wattles Wing.  The new wing contained a meeting room, an expanded reference area and a storage room.  This did little to alleviate the crowded conditions and there was an additional problem with parking.  There were only 13 parking spaces, which at one time may have been more than enough but now was less than adequate.

In March 1974, Library Board President, Rachel Murrah, presented the idea of building a new library at another location, and with the help of a lot of dedicated people, the present site at 460 East New England Avenue was purchased by the city.

Photo of the Winter Park Public Library circa 1902. Winter Park Public Library circa 1902
Photo of Mrs. Eleanora Comstock in her parlor. Mrs. Eleanora Comstock
Photo of the Winter Park Public Library circa 1924. Winter Park Public Library circa 1924
Photo of Charlotte Moughton Brunoehler. Charlotte Moughton Brunoehler
Photo of the library's Vacation Reading Club circa 1952. Vacation Reading Club circa 1952  
Photo of Winter Park Public Library Circa 1959. Winter Park Public Library circa 1959

Return to Library History page

The Beginning  

Library Building 1979 ~ New Location on New England Avenue

Library Building 1995 ~ Third Floor Addition and Renovation


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