Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Built on Bequests

Did you know that the Plainfield Public Library’s first 2 buildings were built without any tax dollars?
It’s true! In about 1919, George and Marietta McClester left $20,000 to the Village of Plainfield to establish and build a tax-supported library. In 1925, Ebanezer and Celeste Nimmons left $25,000 to the library board “to build, purchase a site, equip, maintain, repair, rebuild, refurnish or enlarge” the library.

Our first library building opened in April 1926, on Lockport St, near the corner of Illinois St, where the Heritage Professional Center now stands. It was a 25x30 room with a “separate toilet building.” Our name was originally the McClester-Nimmons Village of Plainfield Free Public Library, in honor of the two couples whose bequests started it all.

When the library outgrew that space in 1940, they built the 2,736 sq ft new library, using the remaining funds from the McLester and Nimmons bequests, at the current site on Illinois St. If you look at the double window behind the magnolia tree on the front of the building (southwest corner), you can still see the inscription that was once over the Library’s front doors.

In 1954, Fannie Stratton left her farm to the Library, which operated it for 34 years as an additional revenue stream. Some of that revenue was used to help purchase additional property along Illinois St for future expansion. In the late 1980s, the Library Board of Trustees sold the farm for $1.5 million.

In 1991, the current building opened. It was built with $1.9 million in bonds, supplemented by the bulk of the proceeds from selling the Stratton farm and a small state grant, for an initial cost of $2.8 million but with 2/3 of the lower level remaining unfinished. In 1996, the lower level was completed using the remaining farm funds, for a total cost of the building coming in at $3.5 million for 27,160 sq ft.

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