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Libraries began branching out in early 1900s

Endowment from Carnegie Foundation fueled Toledo building boom

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    The original South Branch Library, one of several branches built in the early 1900s as the result of an endowment from Andrew Carnegie, still stands on Broadway.

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    The original South Branch Library was replaced with a new building, foreground, in 2005. The old structure, which opened in 1918 can be seen in the background.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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An endowment from Andrew Carnegie in the early part of the 20th century was a quantum leap forward for the Toledo Public Library, making it a truly citywide library and opening access to books for those who could not get to the main library building in downtown Toledo.

By the fall of 1916, work had begun on building five library branches with a $125,000 gift made possible through the philanthropy of the Carnegie Foundation, which funded the construction of more than 1,700 libraries throughout the country.

David Noel, a retired media-relations officer for the library and author of a history on the institution, said the Carnegie money provided the then city-owned system with a much needed shot in the arm.

“The money from the endowment was the first time the Toledo library system had gotten any outside, nonlocal financial assistance. Prior to that, there was only local money for the library,” he said.

READ MORE: Toledo-Lucas County Public Library celebrates 175 years

New locations

The Jermain, Kent, Locke, Mott, and South Toledo branches opened between late 1917 and early 1918. The Carnegie grant only paid for bricks and mortar, leaving the city to foot the costs for furniture, equipment, and books.

The five buildings were among nine branches built between 1917 and the 1930s.

As the years passed, because of technology, economics, and changing tastes and attitudes, the branches would undergo renovations and, in some cases, expansions and additions.

Time has not been kind to the structures that grew from the Carnegie legacy. Only Jermain, Locke, and South Toledo remain standing but no longer are used as libraries.

The Locke Branch Library at 806 Main St. in East Toledo closed its doors in July, 2007, when its replacement, the new $1.9 million Locke branch, opened at 703 Miami St., near the Anthony Wayne Bridge.

The branch, named for former Blade editor and owner David Ross Locke, whose anti-slavery writings under the pen name Petroleum V. Nasby brought him national attention, opened its doors on Dec. 5, 1917. It was enlarged in 1935 and was remodeled 27 years later with modern lights, windows, carpeting, and furniture. A rear parking lot was purchased in 1979.


The original South Branch Library, one of several branches built in the early 1900s as the result of an endowment from Andrew Carnegie, still stands on Broadway.

Enlarge | Buy This Image

The South Toledo branch, at Broadway and Langdon Street, opened Jan. 16, 1918. It was replaced with a new building in 2005.


The original South Branch Library was replaced with a new building, foreground, in 2005. The old structure, which opened in 1918 can be seen in the background.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
Enlarge | Buy This Image

At Galena and Superior streets, the Jermain branch served Toledo’s north end neighborhoods from January, 1918, until it was closed in 1974 during a library system budget crisis. The branch was named after Francis D. Jermain, a librarian with 25 years of service to the Toledo library. Today, the building is in use as the Lighthouse Baptist Church.

Mott Library, at Dorr Street and Forest Avenue, was named for Anna C. Mott, daughter of Richard Mott, Toledo’s sixth mayor who was known for his work with the Underground Railroad. A new wing was added in 1975 and nearly doubled the size of the one-story building.

Money for the project came from a urban renewal grant. However, four years later, library system leaders decided to demolish the original 6,000-square-foot Carnegie building.

Named after Eliza M. Kent, an assistant librarian and first head of the children’s collection, the Kent Branch, at Collingwood Boulevard and West Central Avenue, was given an addition in 1939 that doubled its size. But a fire, caused by a coffee pot, destroyed the branch in December, 1974.

Many books and papers in the branch were destroyed. The library board used the insurance money to buy the Toledo Academy of Medicine building across Collingwood. It underwent a $3 million expansion and renovation in 2011.

Lucas County

Meanwhile, the library system started in 1916 by the Lucas County commissioners began construction that same year on a library on River Road in Maumee. Built with $10,000 from the Carnegie Foundation, it opened its doors to the public in January, 1918, to become the first building in the countywide system.

The library would be reshaped with renovations, garages, and additions in the 1930s and 1950s and more recently with a $2.5 million expansion project that was completed in 2001.

Mr. Noel said the branch system of the Toledo Public Library was a success and the desire to have libraries convenient and within walking distances from homes and the trolley tracks of the Community Traction Co. put more branches in neighborhoods.

Efforts to reach the city’s ethnic neighborhoods saw branches built in the Hungarian and Polish neighborhoods.

East Toledo’s Birmingham branch was started in 1925 in the East Side Community House before moving into its own building in 1925. In 2003, the branch, at Paine and Genesee streets, received an expansion that nearly doubled its size.

The Polish community in North Toledo on Lagrange Street got its first library in 1934 with the opening of the Lagrange-Cenral branch in the old Ohio Savings Bank, where it remained until 1979. For 16 years the branch was in the Central-Lagrange Community Center. A new $1.5 million, 9,000-foot brick building at 3422 Lagrange that opened in 2005 now serves the community.

During the Great Depression, the Toledo Heights branch was constructed on Shasta Drive near South Detroit Avenue in 1935 in a Works Progress Administration project. The West Toledo Branch, 1320 West Sylvania Ave., opened on March 30, 1930, to become the centerpiece of the local neighborhood known as Library Village.

Sylvania Public Library, which had cut ties with the countywide system, began lending books in a home on Maplewood Avenue in 1926 and moved into its present location at Monroe and Silica Drive in 1958.

The branch would undergo expansions and renovations to become one of the busiest branches after the merger of the three libraries in 1970.

In the post-World War II era, Toledo Public Library, responding to the growing population on the fringes of Toledo and demand for services from patrons, opened more branches across city. Three branches sprung up during the 1950s and each underwent expansion.

Meeting demand

The Sanger Library opened in 1950 in rented space in a storefront on West Central Avenue, across from the old McKinley School, and was the system's 12th branch. The library, named after a former board of trustee, moved about seven years later about a mile west on Central in the Kenwood Gardens Shopping Center, into what was a new, modern structure that featured large glass panels.

To meet the needs of West Toledoans, the branch underwent more renovation before the present-day Sanger Branch was built in 2000 at Central and Middlesex Road.

The Reynolds Corners Library, which belonged to the Lucas County system, began in 1958 at Dorr Street and Reynolds Road, and, like Sanger, because the area was rapidly growing, relocated in 1975 to larger quarters nearby in a shopping plaza on Flaire Drive. Nine years later, the current building at that houses Reynolds Corner at 4833 Dorr St., near the Inverness Club, opened.

Point Place Library, at the city’s north edge, began in 1955 in a rented storefront at 4912 Summit St. A new branch building on 110th Street was built in 1964. It was replaced in 1999 with the current branch at 2727 117th Street, more than doubling the size of the old building.

Heatherdowns Library was the last branch in the Toledo Public Library system before the 1970 merger. The futuristic, angular, circular structure, built on land owned by Toledo Public Schools on Glanzman Road near Byrne Road, opened in 1968.

Mr. Noel said library staff jokingly referred to the branch as the “Starship Heatherdowns” because of its contemporary design.

County system

In the 1960s, the Lucas County Library system added branches in Washington Township, Waterville, and Oregon.

Books and materials were loaned out of Trilby Elementary in Washington Township for 33 years until 1961, when the branch was constructed on Whitmer Drive. A better-than-fourfold increase in adult patrons followed.

The branch was replaced in 1986 with a new building on Harvest Lane between Alexis and Laskey roads.

Waterville Library, which also operated out of a school, moved into a new building in 1964 on property in the village park. An addition was built in 1980, and the branch, at 800 Michigan Ave., was renovated and expanded again in 2005.

The last community to receive its own branch in the Lucas County system was Oregon. A 4,000-square-foot branch opened in 1965 on Navarre Avenue in a shopping center. The branch moved into a new building in 1989 at 3340 Dustin Rd.

The Holland Branch opened in 1984 to serve the growing population in the village and Springfield Township. The village donated property at 1032 South McCord Rd. and was paid for with the renewal by county voters of a 0.7-mill levy passed in 1982.

Contact Mark Reiter at: or 419-724-6199.

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