12 19, 2019

5 Facts about the Garfield Family & Mentor Public Library

By |2019-12-19T06:00:24-05:00December 19, 2019|

We’re fortunate to be neighbors with the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. They lead a monthly a Civil War series at our Main Branch and are a wonderful resource to have nearby.

Moreover, the Garfield family has a long history of supporting Mentor Public Library. As part of our 200th anniversary celebration, we invited Lucretia Garfield and James R. Garfield – the wife and son of President James A. Garfield, respectively – to the library to discuss that history.

Granted, both Lucretia and James are posthumous. So we did the next best thing and enlisted Debbie Weinmaker of WeMadeHistory to portray Lucretia and Alan Gephardt of Garfield National Historic Site to play her son on Saturday at our Main Branch.

We’ve filmed their talk in its entirety to share with you; but, if you’re somewhere that you can’t listen to audio, here are five of the most fascinating talks from their presentation:

1. The Mentor Library pre-existed the Garfield family’s involvement but its whole setup would be odd to us nowadays. In 1819, the Mentor Library Company formed, but its collection of 79 books was only available to shareholders who paid $2.50 per share.

The notion of a Mentor Library – free to use for Mentor Township and Mentor Village residents – was the dream of James R. Garfield. Garfield (the son, to be clear) was elected president of the library’s board in 1890, and he served in that role until 1927.

In the meantime, he was involved in state and national politics and served as Secretary of the Interior during Theodore Roosevelt’s administration.

2. Before the library had its own building, it was housed in Mentor Village Hall.

The Garfield family wanted the library to have a home of its own – complete with a reading room. To raise money for the library, the Garfield family hosted “entertainments,” including:

The most lucrative entertainment was a melodrama starring Mary “Mollie” Garfield and entitled “The Sleeping Car.” It raised $107.15.

They raised another $11 by auctioning a cake. James R. Garfield had the winning bid, but he had to borrow $10 because he only had a dollar in his pocket at the time.

3. In May of 1895, the Mentor Village Council raised a half-mill levy to support the library. It provided the library with $160 a year, rendering the entertainments superfluous and paving the way for Mentor Library’s first building.

The architect was, naturally, another member of the Garfield clan. Abram Garfield, Lucretia’s son and James R. Garfield’s brother, designed the building in the New England style.

The land was purchased from a Dr. Lester Luse for $2,200. When both land and building were totaled, the new building cost $7,693. At the time, it stood at the corner of Mentor Avenue and Center Street.

This first library building still exists, by the way. However, we no longer own it and it serves a different purpose now.

4. In 1926, toward the end of his tenure as board president, the library was renamed in honor of James R. Garfield.

The rebranding only lasted 24 years and the Garfield Public Library was renamed again in 1950. (This time, it became Mentor Public Library and the name’s stuck thus far.) But we still commemorate James R. Garfield and his contribution to the library. One of the meeting rooms in our Main Branch is named in his honor.

5. The Garfield family was immensely literate. President James A. Garfield understood both Greek and Latin and was rumored to be able to write both simultaneously. He especially enjoyed poetry by Alfred Tennyson and William Wordsworth and, as a child, had a fondness for books about pirates.

He and Lucretia would read to the children around the parlor table from Lamb’s Shakespeare and One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. They would often quiz their children’s spelling, using 7,000 Words Often Mispronounced in the English Language.

As for the son, James R. Garfield enjoyed the outdoors and spent what little free time he had fishing, hunting and playing tennis. But he still had a predilection for William Makepeace Thackeray and Charles Dickens novels as an adult.

Click here for more information on Mentor Public Library’s history and here for more on our year-long celebration of our 200th anniversary.

04 23, 2019

Popping up at the park

By |2019-04-23T06:00:51-04:00April 23, 2019|

Our Pop-Up Library is always busy when it visits James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

Our Pop-Up Library is always busy when it visits James A. Garfield National Historic Site.

It’s National Park Week and there’s no better way to celebrate than with our friends down the street at James A. Garfield National Historic Site. (Lawnfield, to the locals.)

We visited the historic site on Monday for its annual Easter Egg Roll. We had crafts, candy and, of course, free books!

It’s always a good time to visit Lawnfield, but National Park Week is a special time to visit a special place in our region and nation’s history.

By the way,the experts from Garfield National Historic Site also lead our monthly Civil War program.

Each month, they discuss a different topic pertaining to the Civil War, which President James A. Garfield served in. In April, they talked about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Our Civil War series continues at noon on Wednesday, May 8, at our Main Branch. We’ll learn about the Fourteenth Amendment. As always, the talk is free and open to all.

04 2, 2019

Library History in Photos: On the Move

By |2019-04-02T06:00:45-04:00April 2, 2019|

Mentor Library's first building of its own is taken on the road in 1960. Courtesy of David Gartner.

Mentor Library’s first building of its own is taken on the road in 1960. Courtesy of David Gartner.

As part of our bicentennial, we asked for your historical photos from Mentor Public Library. And, wow, did we get a doozy this week.

Local photographer David Gartner snapped some gorgeous photos on the day our original library building moved down the street.

A little history is helpful here:

For nearly the first century of our existence, Mentor Library didn’t have a home of its own. Our books were housed in private residences or, later, in Mentor Village Hall.

We finally moved up and out at the beginning of the 20th century when a Mr. Addison Goodall offered $1,500 to $2,000 toward a library building if our Board President James R. Garfield and the rest of the board could raise the remainder.

(To keep your Garfields straight, James R. Garfield is the son of President James A. Garfield.)

Abram Garfield, a famous architect and another son of President Garfield, designed our new building. It opened on May 31, 1903, at the corner of Center Street and Mentor Avenue.

Now, this building may look familiar. It still exists and currently houses the Confectionary Cupboard.

So you may be wondering (1.) why isn’t it a library anymore and (2.) how did a building move from Mentor Avenue to the intersection of Center and Nowlen Streets.

The answer to your first question: we outgrew our first home and moved to what we then called our Garfield Unit in 1960. You now know it as our Main Branch. It’s been expanded and renovated in the last 60 years, but it’s been one of our homes ever since. (Well, not counting the two years we needed to relocate to Tyler Road.)

As per the second question: the credit for saving that historical building goes to one heroic woman, Lila Moore Schaefer. Ms. Schaefer recognized the value of the building, purchased it and had it moved to its present location in 1960. She lived in the building and also used it to house her real-estate business until she passed away in 1964.

Then, insurance brokers Don and Marguerite Krueger purchased it. In 1979, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Thanks to David Gartner for making it possible!

01 25, 2019

Have tea with the First Lady at the library

By |2019-01-25T06:00:50-05:00January 25, 2019|

Families can have tea with First Lady Lucretia Garfield and her son, James R. Garfield, during a special program on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Mentor public Library's Main Branch.

Families can have tea with First Lady Lucretia Garfield and her son, James R. Garfield, during a special program on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Mentor public Library’s Main Branch.

Families can have tea with Lucretia Garfield and James R. Garfield – the wife and son, respectively, of President James A. Garfield – during a special program at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, at our Main Branch.

Families will enjoy tea, make a craft and learn how the Garfield family supported the library through its history.

Throughout the day, kids can also complete a special scavenger hunt throughout the Main Branch in celebration of our 200th anniversary.

The tea is free to attend. However, families must register beforehand. You can sign up online at (440) 255-8811 ext. 221.

This special tea is just one of many programs and events we’re offering to celebrate our 200th anniversary in 2019. The offerings include amnesty days where patrons can have fines waived for previously lost items and lectures about the history of Mentor. For more information, visit www.mentorpl.org/200th.

03 11, 2018

MPL Talks: Warrior to the White House

By |2018-03-11T06:00:09-04:00March 11, 2018|

Several of the men who served in the Civil War also served as president of the United States, including Mentor’s most famous resident.

Todd Arrington (site commander of James A. Garfield National Historic Site) discussed the lives of six of these men as the subject of his latest Civil War talk.

Find out who among them:

  • had a grandfather who also served as president
  • was injured in battle and nearly lost his arm
  • never won an election until they were voted vice president
  • began their military career as a private
  • had the nickname Rather-fraud after a controversial election. (That one should be easy.)

Our Civil War series continues at noon on Wednesday, March 14, at our Main Branch. The topic will be Major General Ambrose Burnside. The talk is free and open to all.

If you’re interested in Civil War history, some other previous talks in our Civil War series can be viewed online in their entirety:

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