Historical society building

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The Fayette County Historical Society has just received a new floor.

The ladies who started a city library in the late 1920s first had it in a school, which burned, and the only books left were those out on loan. For awhile, their living rooms served as a lending library.

They determined to build their own building, and for years they sold homemade aprons and jars of homemade jellies on the old courthouse lawn.

A doctor who owned a piece of land where the current historical society and the American Legion Post House sits, sold them a chunk of land on the backside. They paid several hundred dollars for it.

Plans were drawn up for a building in 1946 and construction was begun. I’m not trying to cast aspersions here, but none of their husbands contributed funds toward this effort.

Finally in the spring of 1947, the Margaret Mitchell Library opened. Miss Mitchell had given the ladies permission for naming it after her – unfortunately, the author was killed by a runaway taxi just 2 years later.

I wrote a play a number of years ago about what opening day was probably like and any descendants of these ladies living at the time, took the part of their ancestors for a historical society meeting.

By the early 1980s, there were so many bookshelves filling the Mitchell library, you had to walk sideways to get around. When it was open, it was with volunteers and supplies, such as toilet paper, had to came out of any book overdue funds.

The city of Fayetteville and Fayette County had begun to give some funds to help out the library. When the last library founder died, the county pretty much took it over and built a Butler-style building up near the jail. It then became the Fayette County Public Library.

About 13,000 books had to be moved to the new location, and it was a community effort. One Saturday morning it was “everyone come out and pass books” and probably a hundred did. Young, old, Scouts, school children stood in a line from the “old” library up to the new one, passing books along from one person to the next.

It took us four hours to complete the effort and a couple of pizza shops in town were kind enough to donate our lunch.

The Fayette County Historical Society had also grown about now and had many reference books. We laughed at the time – you were welcome to join but if you had a basement where we could store books, you were really welcome.

In the summer of 1988 the county gave us permission to use the former library building and we have been there ever since. Bear in mind, though, these are reference books and the society is not a lending library. You must come and stay to use them. It is open on Tuesdays from 6 p.m to 9 p.m., Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

You can see how the floor of this building began to sag and needed attention. The county has responded and its use is once again good to go.