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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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Kansas City, Kansas Public Library

Part I - The Beginning

Public Library Bldg & Board of Education - 2003Location: 625 Minnesota Avenue

To your left is a picture of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library building, which houses the main branch of the public library and the KCKs Board of Education.  KCKs is one of the few districts in the country where the library is under the umbrella of the BOE.

Excerpts relative to the history of the Public Library in Kansas City, Kansas for 1844-1961 are taken from "The Kansas City, Kansas Public School System, 1819-1961" by Nellie McGuinn, 196.  Excerpts for 1962-1986 are taken from Schools in KCKs in Years of Change 1962-1986, Dr. Oren L. Plucker, 1987

(All attempts have been made to reproduce the spelling, capitalization and layout of the original book as much as possible.  In some cases, "annotations" and Internet web links have been provided to the original works by the transcriber of the manuscript. -- NOTE:  When reading this works, please remember that addresses change over the year, depending on annexing, mergers, boundary changes, and other happenings.  The addresses referred to in this works may or may not be the same as in old records.  [Example:  What today is known as State Avenue, was Kansas Avenue prior to the Consolidation Act of 1886.])

From 1844 to 1856, the William Walker home was the center of culture in the "Indian Country."  The people who gathered there kept alive an interest in learning in spite of troubled times.  Wyandots remained aloof from state squabbles over capital cities and "bogus" legislatures.  In 1855, twelve men led by William Walker, organized, under legislative sanction, the Wyandot Lyceum and Library Association.  Objectives of the society were listed as the "mutual improvement of its members in oral discussion and literature, and the establishment of a permanent library."

(The following excerpt was taken from: The Wyandot Indians, 1843-1876 by Dr. Robert E. Smith, Jr., graduate thesis published May 1973, Oklahoma State University.

"Despite their Initial difficulties in present Kansas, the Wyandots managed to preserve their civilization.  Several Wyandots had joined the Fraternal Order of Masons in Ohio, and reestablished their lodge when they reached their new location.  A Wyandot lyceum was organized on December 26, 1844, and James Washington, a chief, as elected president.  The members held spirited debates over such questions as 'Is it right to inflict capital punishment?'  'Is the mind of woman naturally inferior to that of man?'  'Has our earth a rotary motion?' "

Source:  Barry, ed., The Beginning of the West: Annals of the Kansas Gateway to the American West, 1540-1854, p. 493; Minutes of the Wyandot Lyceum, December 26, 1844 - January 26, 1845, John M. Armstrong Papers, Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Mr. E. F. Heisler promoted his library movement by setting up in 1871 a permanent notice in the old Gazette:
Library Rooms - E. F. Heisler's Office under Dunning's Hall
Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Small, well-selected, best periodicals on file.
Become a member by paying $1 fee

In March, 1872, the Library Association moved to #16, Cook's Block.  The association announced that it had a good assortment of books and one of the most pleasant rooms in the city.

The Wyandotte Library Association met on the first Saturday of each month at O. D. Burt's Store.  Joseph Speck, who died in 1875, was president and J. A. Davis, secretary.  In April the group gave a public entertainment at Dunning's Hall for the benefit of the library.  The publishers of Webster's Dictionary were credited for a newly-roused spelling bee excitement.  For a dollar one could buy a copy to serve as a good influence in overcoming a "marked deficient among many."  Kansas organized a historical society on December 8, 1875 to preserve its story for the future.

Interest in a library for the city grew.  The Library Association elected Dr. Gentry president and held regular monthly meetings.  In March, 1881, the Methodist church gave an entertainment to raise money to buy books.  Ladies interested in the association served a dinner at Dunning's Hall at Fourth and State, when the Republic convention met in the city.  The singing school that met in the Congregational Church gave a public concert, the cantata, "Queen Esther," as a library benefit.  Sixty dollars worth of new books was added.  The library, observed a writer in the Evening Star, was of "great benefit to the young men of the city."

1887:  Mr. Turner, board member, felt that a public library had become a necessity.  Another member, J. P. Northrup, said he also had thought of the matter.  Owing to lack of funds, they could think of no means of procuring library services.

The school library, lodged in Central School (in Huron Square), was moved to the "Gray" house at Seventh and Ann (property deeded by Dr. George M. Gray , Lot 3, plus the south 41 feet of Lot 6 of Block 150, old Wyandot City - a 4-room house). (Dr. Gray's daughter married Willard Breidenthal, and Dr. Gray is the grandfather of George Breidenthal, BOE Board Member in 2003).  The books formerly controlled by the Wyandotte Library Association and later part of the Public School Library were brought to the office.  Others were donated.  A total of 241 books, mostly educational and scientific, formed the nucleus of the library in the Board-room building.  A fee of 25 cents was charged for summer use.

1892:  Interest in a free library grew.  The board, under the leadership of President Thomas W. Heatley, appointed a library Committee in February, 1892, to do something about books for young people.  The committee presented a list of rules and regulations:

  1. The name to be the Public Library of Kansas City, Kansas.
  2. The title, property, government and control to be with the board.
  3. The Board of Managers to consist of nine persons.  The Chairman of the Board of the Library Committee to be an ex-officio member and president of the Board of Manager.  The superintendent to be a member, ex-officio.  The board to elect four members, the several permanent library societies to elect three, and the Board of Trade, one.
  4. Term to be one year.
  5. To be supported by donations and the sale of library tickets at one dollar per year.
  6. Board of Managers to report to the Board of Education on rules.
  7. The managers to elect the librarian.
  8. Two-thirds of library money to be spent on works of history, biography, science, travels, essays and poetry.  One-third to be spent for fiction, reviews, magazines and newspapers.
  9. To be located in the Board of Education rooms.

In January, 1893, a delegation went to Topeka to talk to local legislators about a bill for school relief and library maintenance.

The high school presented an entertainment in April, 1893, to raise money for the library.  The Board of Trade gave 25 valuable books to the library. 

The board confirmed the names of Mrs. M. Wells, Mrs. Kate S. Hughes, and Mrs. F. R. Slusser for members of the Board of Managers of the Public Library.  The Federation of Literary Clubs had appointed them.  Mr. John Cruse represented the Board of Trade.  Other attempts to establish a public library had failed.  With the passage of a recent bill, the board received permission to spend one-half mill of the school dollar, amounting to $6,000 a year, for the support and maintenance of a public library.

1895: The library, so recently established, had to move, and the two west rooms of the Board's office building (property deeded to the BOE by Dr. George M. Gray ) made into one classroom for high school use.

The library, crowded out of its room at the high school annex, moved to the second floor of the Court Block on Minnesota Avenue near Seventh Street.  The Federation of Clubs took over the management in November.  The Board of Managers appointed Miss E. M. Dickinson, librarian.  A $1 fee admitted a person to membership.

1896:  The Board of Managers invited the public to visit on February 13 the library managed by the Federation of Clubs.  The Riverview Mandolin Club entertained callers at the library rooms.  New books placed on the shelves were designated by the borrowers as heavy reading.

Leading citizens sponsored parties and entertainments for the library.  On July 23, 1896, Mr. and Mrs. Winfield Freeman gave a "balcony" social as a benefit for the library fund at their home at Sixth and Freeman.  One invited guest said he had no idea what a "balcony" social was -- maybe it was an affair "where the boys could kiss the girls only in the shade of the vines on the balcony."  A new source of income became available for the library when one half the dog tax was turned into the funds, by an ordinance passed by the city council in August, 1896.

The board decided in March, 1897, that the library should be incorporated as a separate body in order to get certain monies under the state law.  The library group was named the Public Library Association of Kansas City, Kansas.  The board turned over books, papers, etc., to the association, but reserved the right to name one third of the directors.  The association leased the second floor of the Wyandotte State (formerly National) Bank at Fifth and Minnesota, with an option on the third floor, if needed.

Five years before, the Federation of Clubs planned a library, a small one in the Board of Education rooms.  In 1897 there were 1500 volumes in the five rooms of the old Northrup Bank Building.  Members numbered 407 and high school students had free tickets.  Members of the Board of Directors were:  W. E. Barnhart, President; Edward Haren, Secretary; Sarah A. Richart; Reba S. Freeman; Sara Judd Greenman; Lillian Walker Hale; Mrs. Bronson; Honorable C. K. Wells; Arthur (probably Alfred) Weston; J. C. Cruise; Mrs. Mary Farrow, Librarian.

1898:  The bonds passed by 1812 votes out of 2262.  The majority favored a location north of Ohio.

The first thought of the people had been to build the new high school on Huron Place where Central had stood so long.   The city went to court and obtained an injunction restraining the board from using Seminary Place.  The city claimed that Huron Place had been dedicated by the old Town Company for park purposes only, and that the Board of Education had no right there.  The court granted the injunction.

When the case was taken to the Supreme Court, the lower court's decision was reversed.  Seminary, declared the Supreme Court, meant "school."  The resolution of the city council thirty years ago neither added to, nor took from, rights.  The court ordered the city to ascertain Seminary Place boundaries and to give title.  By the time the matter was settled, the board had chosen a site at Ninth and Minnesota.

The Library Association, after a good start in rooms at Fifth and Minnesota, made a financial report on December 5.  It was unable to meet expenses and asked the board to accept the responsibility once again for the operation of the library.  This the board promised to do as soon as a committee was appointed to take inventory of the books.  Mrs. Mary Farrow was hired by the board to serve another year as librarian.

1899:  The board was relieved of responsibility for the library when in January, 1899, the club women of the city assumed responsibility.  On the Library Board were:  Lillian Walker Hale, Mary M. Banteleon, Carrie A. Brownson, J. D. Cruise (Cruse), Sarah A. Richart, Morrell Wells, W. E. Barnhart.

Rooms above what was later the People's National Bank were rented. The Board of Education paid $500 for new books and named Miss Elizabeth Dickinson, a former teacher, librarian. Mrs. Mary Farrow succeeded her for a few months. When the new high school was completed, the books would be moved there. D. A. Griest gave the library a sixteen-volume set of Masterpieces of American History.

The picture of Mrs. Clarinda Nichols exhibited at the Chicago Fair by the Columbian Ladies, was presented to the library. It was valued at $500. Mrs. Mary Tenney Gray was president of the group. Mrs. Sara Robinson, wife of the first governor of Kansas, presented a book for the Kansas section. Valuable reports of Mason S. Peters, former congressman, were the gift of Mrs. Sarah Richart, present of the Library Board. After an appeal for donations, the library received over 400 magazines, including copies of Scribner's, Harper's, Century, and Review of Reviews.

Mrs. Many N. Farrow left to go to the Kansas City, Missouri, Library. The board praised her work over the past two years. Miss Mina Lane took her place. City teachers received free tickets to the library.

1900:  The state librarian notified the board of education in January, 1900, that any school district could have the use of fifty books for six months for a fee of $2.00 and freight.  The Public Library moved to the Northrup Building at Fifth and Minnesota.  Miss Mina Lane, librarian served until 1902.  The next move of the library was to its own building in Huron Place in 1904.  Local talent gave an entertainment, "La Fiesta" for the benefit of the library.

W. E. Barnhart, president of the Board of Education, interested the Mercantile Club in asking Andrew Carnegie for a gift toward a new library building.  D. H. Stevens, W. A. Simpson, and Mr. Barnhart, chairman, were appointed to work with a group representing women's clubs, the Mercantile Club, and the Board of Education to present the request to Mr. Carnegie.

Dr. Eager, a leader in the Library Association, and a group of performers gave a library benefit in October at the high school.  Letter exchanges between Andrew Carnegie's secretary and the committee went on.  The library has possession of this correspondence today.

1901:  Of all events of the year, those connected with the plans for a new library were most absorbing.  Early in the year the board instructed the superintendent of repairs to have the sign, "Public Library" painted on one window fronting on Fifth Street and on one facing Minnesota.

A woman who had devoted her energies for years toward a free public library died in Seattle, Washington, on January 13, 1901.  She was Mrs. Sarah Richart, who residence was at Sixth and Everett.  In her will she left five or six thousand dollars for the purchase of library books, provided that there was a suitable place to house them.

A Mr. Hoag introduced House Bill, Number 791, in February, authorizing that the part of Huron Place under the control of the Board of Education be used as a site for a library building.  The Board of Education could give the ground to the city to carry out such a purpose.

On March 4, when the Board of Education offered title to the land in Huron Place, the Mercantile Club said it was going to ask Andrew Carnegie, eastern philanthropist, for money for a library.  The dog tax money, collected by Mrs. Richart and other club women, brought in only $200 a year, a large part going for expenses and only a little to the library.  The news arrived on July 4, 1901, that Mr. Carnegie would provide $75,000 if the city spent 10% of the sum each year for the cost of maintenance.

The committee announced the gift on August 5, 1901.  The city pledged $75,000 over a period of ten years for maintenance.  Active on the committee were W. A. Simpson, president of the Mercantile Club, Chancellor David S. Stephens of Kansas City University, McCabe Moore, Board of Education members W. E. Barnhart, George McL. Miller and Alfred Watson.  On August 8, the board sent by registered mail a formal acceptance of Mr. Carnegie's gift and pledged the required annual guarantee.

The mayor and council, on September 12, passed resolutions in praise of the library gift.  On the same day the board received a letter from Andrew Carnegie's secretary affirming that drafts to the amount of $75,000 would be honored.  The women's clubs started a collection for a life-size portrait of Mrs. Sarah Richart, to be hung in a proposed art room in the library upon its completion.  Mrs. Snell and the Excelsior Club appealed to the board on October 7, asking for a branch library in Armourdale.  Attorneys still were working on establishing title to the ground of the library.  They found before the end of the year the location and dimensions of the plot on which Central stood and sent the library plans to Carnegie for approval.  In December, 1901, Miss Mina Lane resigned and Mrs. Sarah Judd Greenman, widow of Corwin M. Greenman, was elected librarian, a position she was to hold for many years.

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Part I
(The Beginning)

Part II
(Central Public School makes way for the Carnegie Library)

Part III
(Continued Growth)

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library - Main Branch

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library - Argentine Branch (Carnegie Library)

Kansas City, Kansas Public Library - West Wyandotte Branch

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From the Kansas State Library
State Capitol - Third Floor - Topeka, KS 66612

U.S.D. 500 * Wyandotte County * Population - 166,069. Kansas City Public Library, 625 Minnesota - 66101.  C.R.A. 2-1-65.  Joined NEKLS 6-6-79 and withdrew from the system 1-1-82.  The library was established by the City federation of Women's Clubs of Kansas City, Kansas, and was opened 15 May 1892.  In 1893 a special act of the Kansas Legislature gave the Board of Education of Kansas City authority to levy a 1/2 mill tax for library purposes.  On 2 January 1899 at the meeting of the Board of Education, the Board accepted the responsibility of library administration for the city.  On 4 July 1901 a $100,000 Carnegie Foundation grant for a building was made.  On 3 November 1964, at an election of Wyandotte County residents, it was determined to establish and maintain a library except in the cities of Bonner Springs and Kansas City (F-7,386, A-3,326).  Countywide service is provided through agreement between Wyandotte County and U.S.D. 500, which acts as the governing body of the kansas City, Kansas Public Library. 

The library's levy limit is 4.00 mills for the school district and 1.50 for the county.  The library building was completed in 1966.  Gross area is 52,000 sq. ft.  Shelving - 40,000 ft.  Seats 172; public meeting room holds 130.  Accessibility:  Y - 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8; N - 3, 6, 9, 10.

NOTE:  The information from the Kansas State Library was courteously provided from prior records upon request to them.  Information in the 2nd paragraph is not necessarily accurate relating to mill levy, gross area, seating, etc. in the current date of 2005.

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Additional links related to the Library

Over the last 100+ years, the Kansas City, Kansas Public Library has had many changes. See the .pdf file relative to those changes. KCKs Public Library Report, August 2007

Blue Skyways:  A Service of the Kansas State Library

The City's Great Public Library
Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911

Cutler's History of Kansas - Wyandotte County
William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas
was first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.

KC Planning & Zoning - Online Information relative to Huron Historic District

West Branch Library

Architectural Blue Prints and/or Plot Plan of Carnegie Library

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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