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Pat Crisp

Pat Crisp

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The Jackson County Library Story part 2

The Library committees searched and finally found a lot on North Green Street which could be purchased for $10,000. Donofro and Associates was working on plans for a new building. The hope had been to complete the renovation by July 4th, 1976, but, of course, the new plan of action would not allow that to be possible. By now, the Friends of the Library, the Bicentennial Committee, the “Action ‘76” Steering Committee and many other committees were working feverishly to make this library project become a reality.

The initial estimate was that it would take $80,000 to build the new library with the plans the committees had accepted. That meant that there was a commitment for less than half of what would be needed. There was complete unity that this MUST be a County Library which would be affiliated with the Northwest Florida Regional Library System which offered greater resources and book volume to the library patrons. Inclusion under the Regional system would also open up other grant possibilities. Everyone continued to feel strongly that a County Library appeal had to be made to everyone in the county.

Committees were formed to make contacts county-wide to City Commissions, service clubs, civic clubs, schools, churches, everyone!

The contacts were made, and records show that the Marianna organizations and people, along with county-wide service clubs, schools, individuals, businesses, and interested county residents just made the money appear. One special project was selling “a square foot of the building” for $23.00! School children brought their pennies, nickels and dimes. People gave square feet in honor and memory of their loved ones. It was a great idea!

On July 4th, 1976, a ground-breaking was held for the new library on the lot purchased from William Callaway, located between the William Brunner home and the Foster Jennings home. As we got deeper and deeper into the project, it was obvious it was going to take much more than the original estimate. Of course, that meant more fund raising!!!

A wonderful scrapbook shows photos and write-ups about how almost every city in the county giving donations, almost every civic or service organization, churches, groups and individual after individual contributed. When it was looking like we were just not going to reach the goal in time, Mrs. Violet McLendon gave a CD which was maturing in the amount of $21,500. That left 15% of the needed funds to be raised. (You will note that the northeast corner room in the original library is called The Violet McLendon Room---for obvious reasons!) THE MONEY WAS RAISED!!! IT WAS OBVIOUSLY A GREAT TEAM EFFORT!

After all this hard work, the Jackson County Public Library was dedicated on November 20th, 1977. It was A BIG DEAL!!! The DAR gave a flag which had flown over the Capitol in Washington, raised by the ROTC, the Marianna High School Band performed; dignitaries spoke, including Mr. Robert Williams who was serving as the Florida Deputy Secretary of State. The $125,000 library building was given to the County----debt-free!

The plaque by the entrance of the Library states: Built by the people of Jackson County as their primary Bi-Centennial project. 1976-77 Jackson County Heritage Association

The Bicentennial Library started with 8,000 books and periodicals and equipment which could be used by county residents which had never been available before! A bookmobile was made available by a local dealership to be used until the County’s arrived in December.

The bookmobile immediately had a schedule taking it to Sneads, Grand Ridge, Cypress, Cottondale, Alford, Round Lake, and Graceville, then to Campbellton, Greenwood, Two Egg, Dellwood and Malone. A library branch was soon established in Graceville. IT WAS A GOOD PROJECT!!!

Well, the library grew by leaps and bounds and by the early 90’s, about 13 years later, it was bursting at the seams! In 1992, the County extended the building many times over its original square footage and they purchased the land lying west of the building for parking.

Today the library houses approximately 64,000 books, 25 computers and currently averages lending over 5,000 books per month. The bookmobile is not currently being used.

Between January 2012 and January 2013 the library book circulation increased by 44%. That is quite remarkable!

Those figures do not count all the special programs held throughout the year. Tutoring on all levels is done daily. Local artists display their art work, many displays are featured, children’s programs are held, and right now there is a knitting class going on. There was a concert there recently. All sorts of things happen at the Library on Green Street. It’s like a bee-hive in there. People getting books, using the computers, researching, all sorts of things, constantly!

If you wonder what happened to “The Little Green House”--- after a couple of years, it was sold to the Bert Miller Family for $10. Ducky Johnson moved the house to Greenwood, it was totally restored, and you can find it today, sitting proudly on Allen Street near downtown Greenwood!

It is the writer’s desire that everyone understand the love and dedication that has gone into the Library since its conception. All of us “Old Timers” would like for everyone to know how much we appreciate the County for seeing a real need of the people and keeping it funded over these 36 years. Also, our most sincere appreciation to the many people who have worked, and are still working so hard to make these services available to the people of Jackson County, both paid staff and volunteers. The Friends of the Library are very active supporters and always welcome memorials and honorarium contributions. So many people have worked very hard to make this wonderful project a true success.

I think we have truly proven that “Jackson County did need a Liberry”…and I just hope everyone will agree that those involved with the Jackson County Library Project from the 50’s until now should be applauded!

The Jackson County Library Story

 “We don’t need no liberry now”

For some, the Library Story will bring back memories long forgotten, for others, it is the writer’s hope it will help everyone understand how hard some of us worked to get a library for Jackson County, and how proud we are of what is going on at the Jackson County Library today

The Jackson County Library has had three homes!

First it was at the Community House located on Wynn Street on the Wynn Street Park property. It was a very large building used for many activities. One of the rooms in the building housed the only public library in the county. Marianna Woman’s Club volunteers opened it several hours a week for those wishing to check out and return books. Sandra Peacock tells how she and her little friends would walk down to the Community House and sit on the steps and wait for the ladies to come and open the building so they could exchange their library books.

In the early 1950’s, The Marianna Woman’s Club and Marianna Junior Woman’s Club won a $5,000 national award for a project they did in the county to eradicate hookworms which had infested hundreds of county children. They used the money to purchase and renovate the Messer Home on the corner of Clinton and Caledonia Streets. One section of the house was dedicated and prepared, with shelving on every wall, to house the Jackson County Library and the books were all moved there.

For the next twenty six years, the library was a part of the Marianna Woman’s Club, with most of the expenses being absorbed by the Woman’s Club. For many of those years, Mrs. J.R. Hooten and Pat Simpson almost single-handedly kept the doors open several hours a week. The clippings we found in the Library in scrapbooks which were so meticulously kept, state that in 197, Carole Davidson had been co-employed by the City and the County as the Librarian, assisted by Kathleen Carter. The library was open Monday, Wednesday and Friday 1:00 to 5:00, Monday night for two hours and Saturday mornings. The report states that many books had been donated during that year and the circulation for the year was 3,297 adults and 1,834 juveniles, for a total of 5,131 books for 1974 and 5,663 were circulated for 1973. That averages about 450 books distributed each month during those brief open hours. They were busy!

During this time, many futile attempts had been made by the Marianna Junior Woman’s Club, the Jackson County Heritage Association (which is now the Chipola Historical Trust) and other interested groups to convince the County Commission of the need for a real county library.

One particularly memorable event occurred one evening in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s when June Manor, Betty Joyce Hand, Claude Reese and this writer, representing the Jackson County Heritage Association, approached the County Commissioners one more time.

June and Betty Joyce were making the presentation, which we four thought was particularly sensible and heart felt. However, one of the Commissioners listened intently and then said, and I quote: “We ain’t never had no LIBERRY in Jackson County and we don’t need no LIBERRY now!”

And the ladies, after a very long pause, said, “THANK YOU!”

During 1974 there was a program by the Federal Government to encourage citizens to do a Bicentennial Project in observance of America’s 200th Birthday. They were offering matching funds to communities who could present a plan that seemed worthy, which would be chosen by a State of Florida selection committee named “The State Bicentennial Commission.”

Since our group had not taken “No” for an answer very well earlier, we four, representing several organizations, began to investigate what might be done to secure a library as the County’s Bicentennial Project and perhaps apply for some grant monies. A Bicentennial Committee, the “Action ’76 Committee”, and many other committees were formed. All interested citizens were drawn into the possibility of making this potential library project a community endeavor.

Strangely enough, the Jackson County Heritage Association had just been given a house which had been moved from the Pierce property to make way for the 1st Federal Savings & Loan Association to build the building that is now Regions Bank. The building was an 1855 Gothic Victorian house, which seemed quite adequate for a library, but it needed extensive renovation and we had NO money! The house was now sitting on its moving timbers on the Jackson County School Board property north of the City Hall.

“The Little Green House” was its official name---even though it was a pretty large old home. At some point in time the house had been painted dark green (which was so weather-beaten that could have been debatable.) The name seemed to fit the house, however, and it was always referred to as “The Little Green House.” “The Little Green House”

But just in case the group began to look for land and get estimates for the renovation. Slade West gave us a lot in his West Manor Subdivision. The Jackson County Bicentennial Committee had been formed in 1975 and had been working feverishly on the “Little Green House Library Project”. The State’s $15,000 grant application had been submitted and approved to renovate the donated house. The City of Marianna had earmarked $7,500 for the project and the group decided the time was right to make another approach to the County.

June and Betty Joyce went, once again, made their most sincere appeal, and this time the Commission agreed to match the State’s $15,000 grant for the “Little Green House Library Project”.

The groups that were working so hard were delighted, but when the estimate came back on the renovation, it was way more than all involved had anticipated. In addition, the donated lot just didn’t seem to fit the project. While disappointed, everyone was very determined! Everyone agreed we had to abandon “The Little Green House Library Project” and Plan “B” was immediately begun! With a pledge of $37,500 toward the project it seemed reasonable to begin to look at a new building…but we all knew that it would take WAY more than that to complete the project…and all agreed this was to be a County Library…..we would look to the entire COUNTY to help with the funding. 

The New U.S. Post Office and Federal Building Part 4

The new Post Office and Federal Court Building was completed in mid-1928, even though the cornerstone says 1927. The contractor’s photo dates are May 10, 1928. It was, and still is, a beautiful building.

We have 1957 architectural plans which tell that the entire eastern side of the first floor of the building (the width of the area extending forward) was the Courtroom with the judge’s bench on the north end of the room. The remainder of the first floor was used by the Postal Department. You will note from the photographs here that the only doors on the building for public entrance were the front doors which are still in place. While the building, from the front view, appears to be a two-story rectangular building, there was an east to west ground floor extension across the entire rear of the first floor of the building, which does not show from a front view.

Views of the east side of the building show no public entrance except the front entrance. Note the size of the section which was the Courtroom. According to the blueprints, it ran from the front of the building to the rear on the east side. Side view of the Post Office before completion

The photo of the unfinished building shows the rear of the building. Note the second floor office area with the extended area on the north side at the rear of the second floor. This writer erroneously stated last week that the stairs from the lobby led to the Courtroom on the second floor, but the 1957 blueprints show that there were only court-related offices on the second floor, specifically, the Marshall’s office, Petit Jury Room, Probation Officer’s office, two District Attorney offices, a large Clerk of the Court’s office and the Judge’s office with secretary offices. The staircases and restroom facilities took the remaining second floor space.

The 1957 blueprints detail how the building was rewired and central air-conditioning was added. The Courtroom was the entire east section of the first floor of the building.

In 1963 considerable property was purchased from the Frank Stone estate and the Methodist Church. Soon afterward the renovation and addition to the original building was begun. J. C. Rainey of Rainey and Fortenberry Construction Company was the contractor. 

The 1990 aerial view shows the very large two-story addition which was added, noting the original footprint of the 1928 building. The first floor was all dedicated to the Postal Department’s use, while the second floor held a very large courtroom and auxiliary space for the same type offices as were there originally, only on a much larger scale. There was also a secured area for holding prisoners. An additional public entrance was added at this time on the east side of the building with steps to both floors and an elevator just inside the entrance for handicapped use. A very large covered loading dock was added for the delivery of mail, and a large paved area to accommodate the oversized trucks which transport mail to and from Marianna. The east area of the building which was once the Courtroom was changed into hundreds of postal boxes easily accessible from three different entrances, two of which are never locked, allowing access to one’s post office box at any time of the day or night.

This photo shows how the two buildings were joined, and gives an idea of the size of the addition. The large Courtroom was finished with beautiful wooden paneling throughout. The seating for the spectators was benches of matching wood. These scenes were taken in 2007 when the U. S. Postal Service decided to renovate the second floor into office space, particularly the Courtroom area, which had not been used for many years. When the Federal Court House was built in Panama City, all Federal court cases were moved there.

The Chipola Historical Trust became aware that the work was about to begin and that the contractor had been instructed to dispose of all the paneling, benches and everything related to the Courtroom. The Chipola Trust asked permission from the proper government authorities to be given reusable interior portions of the Courtroom and their request was granted. They were given the paneling, the jurors’ chairs and all accessories connected with the Courtroom, with the possibility of using the material in the Jackson County Administration Building, which was being planned at that time. The County made arrangements for prisoners to assist, and County vehicles and personnel took the material as it was removed by the contractor to a safe and dry place. It has been stored there since 2007 for potential use by the County.

Several years ago there was a very unpopular effort made to move the Post Office out near the west I-10 interchange. Parking had become a problem and the property west of the building held contaminated soil from a previous gas station.

To Marianna citizens’ great relief, the Methodist Church purchased the property for their parking needs on the weekend and evenings, and leased the large, very ample parking lot to the Post Office for their customers’ use during the week.

The Post Office building and the very professional postal employees are a wonderful asset to Marianna. The stately building is used in many ways as an Icon to advertise our beautiful city. It is the hope of the Chipola Historical Trust that these articles on the history of the building will give everyone a better appreciation for the quality and the beauty of the building that houses such a necessary service to the citizens of our area. 

The Federal Building - Part 3

Eight weeks later, working through November and December, this photo was taken on January 2, 1928 from Caledonia Street, looking west. (Note the frame house is shown on the extreme right rear of the building.) The area next to the curb is covered with tiles for the roof. The second floor has been completed and the roof appears to be about ready for the tiles to be installed.

This photo was also taken on January 2nd, giving an overall front view from the southwest corner of the building from Lafayette Street. The front steps have been completed, but the entrance, with the doors and transoms, has not. The windows appear to be ready for installation, that is not yet started. The beautiful concrete ornamental work has been completed over the windows on the east and west front. The exterior brick construction is very obvious in this photograph.

Flash forward now, until May 10, 1928. At some point during the first five months of 1928, the stucco was placed over the brick as we see it today. The contractor took this final photograph to show that the building was complete. The building was totally completed in less than twelve months! The question could be raised here, “Could we achieve the building of a structure that size and quality in less than twelve months today?”

This photo was also taken on May 10th and shows the interior of the Federal Building. This would state pretty loudly that this building was built for Federal Court, with the Post Office being a secondary use of the building. As one faced the area, there appears to be three customer service windows, behind glass, with a set of double doors on the right of the windows and approximately 50 post office boxes on the extreme left of the widows. The stairs in the center of the room would lead to the upper level where the Court Room was located. It shows here that the stairs have a gate which would only allow entry when opened. The arches seen on the exterior of the building were carried into the lobby area and the ceiling has the appearance of exposed beams. The hanging lamps complete the Spanish style of the building. While much has been changed over the years, you can note that the front doors and the transom areas over the doors are exactly the same today, as shown as in 1928.

The Federal Building is finished and being used a few years later. The landscaping has been done, a flag flies on the roof and all occupied portions of the building have the windows open for circulation. Of course, there was no air conditioning until much later. Noting the age of the cars in this photo, it would appear to have been taken sometime in the 1930’s. The Federal Building story will be continued next week when we discuss the renovation and major addition in 1953, as taken from the blue prints.

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