VAN WERT - With turreted towers and a dry moat around its perimeter, the stately Brumback Library fools visitors who see it for the first time.
The 100-year-old Gothic building looks more like a castle than a place where people gather to read and check out books. “Most libraries are easily identifiable in the downtown,” said Beth Hansen, regional coordinator for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission. “But this is not identifiable [as a library] because it's so grandiose in downtown Van Wert.”
The library's unusual architecture is one reason that it will be recognized during two ceremonies this weekend.
At 11 a.m. tomorrow, members of the bicentennial commission will erect a historical marker on the library's front lawn.
Ms. Hansen said Brumback was selected for its style and the fact that it was the first tax-supported county library in the nation.
Residents will gather again Sunday at 7 p.m. for a centennial celebration at First United Methodist Church of Van Wert, the same place at which the library's original dedication ceremony was held Jan. 1, 1901.
A series of events to celebrate the 100th anniversary also have been sponsored at the library this week, including a children's carnival that begins on the front lawn at noon today.
Special attention and care to the Brumback is nothing new in this Van Wert County city, said longtime library Director John Carr.
“The library is well regarded in the community,” Mr. Carr said.
It started back in the late 1890s, when John Brumback, a local businessman and philanthropist, left $50,000 from his estate to establish a library.
He did so on the condition that the county pay for its books and maintenance.
The state legislature later approved a law that allowed Van Wert to form the nation's first-tax supported county library.
Designed by D.L. Stine of Toledo, the building was constructed with top materials of the time, including marble, limestone, and Ludowicitiles for the roof.
Mr. Carr said the library has been successful over the years largely because of the Brumback family, which donated $3 million in 1991 for a 10,500-square-foot addition and renovation of the existing building.
“I think the thing that makes it unique for the Brumback Library is we have a family that's been very committed to the welfare of the library,” Mr. Carr said.
Despite the renovation work, the library's marble columns, natural wood, and fireplaces were preserved.
For the addition, workers used limestone from the same quarry as they did to build the original structure.
Outside, its 3-acres are maintained as a park-like setting, with well-kept grass, landscaping, and places to sit and read.
Because of its style, people often are seen having their pictures taken on its front steps, Mr. Carr said.
Van Wert resident Juanita Cress, 76, said she plans to attend the centennial celebration on Sunday. She visits the library two to three times a week to read papers and do her genealogy research.
While there, Ms. Cress said she always appreciates her surroundings.
“This is one of the nicest libraries I've ever been in,” she said. “I think it's a beautiful place.”