Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Richmond Public Library, 1937

Click on image twice for larger view - John W. De Groot worked for the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the late 1930s as an illustrator and writer. He provided many of the illustrations for the TD's Sunday Magazine section at that time period. This issue, dated April 11, 1937, is courtesy of Richard Bland. For more images by De Groot just look at our side panel of topics we've discussed and click on his name.

The (James H.) Dooley Memorial Library, 101 E. Franklin Street, was built 1929-1930. The library was an Art Deco style building designed by Baskervill and Lambert. A new and much larger Richmond Public Library building built in 1972 now surrounds the old building. The original entrance hall remains as the lobby of the eastern half of the new building. Funding for the Dooley Library originated from a $500,000 bequest by Sallie May Dooley (1846-1925), wife of Major James H. Dooley (1841-1922). The Dooleys gave their large estate, Maymont, to the City of Richmond to be used as a park after their death.

Richmond was one of the last cities of its size in the nation to build and operate a public library. In 1901 Andrew Carnegie’s offer to donate $100,000 to the City of Richmond to erect a public library was initially accepted by City Council. Despite efforts by supporters of a public library, led by Robert Whittet, Sr. of the publishing firm Whittet and Shepperson, funding by the city was never allocated. Carnegie’s demands that the city find and purchase a site and allocate $10,000 a year for the maintenance for a library were considered too costly by the city.

Those early efforts did lead to the formation of a citizens’ campaign for a library in the 1910s and 1920s. As public support grew, City Council finally agreed to fund a public library. Richmond’s first public library operated from 1924 to 1930 at 901 W. Franklin Street, the former residence of Major Lewis Ginter (1824-1897). In segregated Richmond African Americans could not use the library. In 1925 the city opened the Rosa D. Bowser Library for African Americans. Named for Rosa L. Dixon Bowser (1855-1931), a civic leader who was considered the first African American female school teacher in Richmond, the library was located in the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA at 515 N. 5th Street.

When did Richmond's Public Library integrate?

- Ray B.

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