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.

06 6, 2019

Hear the untold stories of Mentor

By |2019-06-06T06:00:27-04:00June 6, 2019|

Want to hear the stories about Mentor's remarkable history that don't make the history books? Hear them from historian Thomas Matowitz at Mentor Public Library.

Want to hear the stories about Mentor’s remarkable history that don’t make the history books? Hear them from historian Thomas Matowitz at Mentor Public Library.

As part of our 200th anniversary, we’re exploring Mentor’s history. And nobody knows more about the city of Mentor than historian Thomas Matowitz. He literally wrote the book on it.

Matowitz is the perfect person to discuss prominent Mentor families like the Garfields, landmarks like the Wildwood Estate, and more. But he also has a mindful of spectacular Mentor stories that nearly nobody else knows.

You can hear some of Matowitz’s rare and untold stories during a special program at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20, at our Main Branch. The talk is free to attend and open to all. We only ask that you can register beforehand. You can sign up by calling us at (440) 255-8811 ext. 247.

For more from Matowitz:

Speaking of our 200th anniversary, you can also join us for our anniversary party at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 12, on the Read House lawn. Help make a community mosaic of Mentor with Gail Christofferson of Animal House Glass.

Also, Tom Todd, the Amazing One Man Band, will perform from 6 to 7 pm. Bring your lawn chairs or blankets, sit back and enjoy  a little bit of Jimmy Buffett. We will also have cake and contests. All are welcome and no registration is required for our party.

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!

10 19, 2018

Help us celebrate our 200th anniversary

By |2018-10-19T06:00:42-04:00October 19, 2018|

The first Mentor Public Library building, the architect of which was Abram Garfield -- son of the president.

The first Mentor Public Library building on Center Street, the architect of which was Abram Garfield — son of the president.

We know something about stories. We have tens of thousands lining the shelves of our branches.

But now the library wants to know your story.

In anticipation of our 200th anniversary in 2019, we are collecting:

  • Historic photos of the library (any branch or event.)
  • People’s favorite memories involving Mentor Public Library.

If you have a photo or memory you wish to share, please contact us. You can either email Jason.lea@mentorpl.org or call us at (440) 255-8811 ext. 213.

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