BIGGEST GIFT TO CITY SINCE ITS FOUNDATION
MONTANA RECORD HERALD June 29 1933
Unitarian Society will spend $15,000 first To Put Building in Shape for Library
City Council Meets to Accept the Gift
Twice FloorSpace of Present Building, Estimated
The most munificent gift ever made to Helena as a municipality was tendered at 2 o’clock this afternoon at a special meeting of the city council, when the Unitarian Church building at Lawrence Street, opposite the post office, was offered by the First Unitarian Society of Helena to the city for use as a free public library. The gift is conservatively valued at $75,000.
This council, by resolution, immediately accepted the offer. Beside the buildlng and the ground upon which it stands, the Unitarian Society is providing $15,000 for remodeling the structure for library purposes. A modern substantial attractive home for Helena’s public library, something that has been badly needed for many years, the Unitarian church building will give more than twice the space available at the library’s quarters, with many other invaluable advantages. The location is almost in the center of the city.
The gift was offered by a committee from the society composed of Carrie L.B. Williams, Mrs. J.N. Glass, Henry Sieben, Eugene Sanden, and Harry G. Pickett. The project has been under consideration by the society and by the Women’s Alliance, its auxiliary, for more than a year, it was said today. But only recently was brought to a stage where action was possible. At a special meeting of its Board of Trustees Wednesday evening, a decision was reached and the following resolution adopted:
“Be it resolved by the First Unitarian Society that the real property of the foresaid church property and the parcels of land on which the aforesaid church is situated on North Park Avenue by deed of gift for use as a public library.
“Provided that the Mayor and Commissioners of the City of Helena shall be willing to accept the conveyances as a gift from the First Unitarian Society of Helena for the use stated and shall be indicated by forms promise to accept:
“And may it be Further Resolved that when the mayor and the commissioners of the city shall so indicate and the building be ready for a use as a library, the board of trustees of the First Unitarian Society of Helena shall make and deliver a deed in proper form to said mayor and commissioners, conveying the real property aforesaid to the City of Helena, Mont., for use as a public library.
“Provided that the mayor and commissioners of the City of Helena shall be willing to accept the conveyance as a gift from the First Unitarian Society of Helena for the use stated and shall so indicate by formal promise to accept:
“And Be It Further Resolved that when the mayor and the commissioners shall indicate their willingness by formal promise to accept, the interior of the Unitarian church edifice be transformed by proper alterations into a modern library without cost to the City of Helena.
“And Be It Further Resolved that when the alterations shall be completed and the building be ready for use as a library, the trustees of the First Unitarian Society of Helena shall make and deliver in proper form a deed conveying the real property aforesaid to the City of Helena for use as a public library.
In its resolution of acceptance the city council, after noting the resolution of the resolution adopted by the Unitarian society’s trustees said:
“Whereas, it is in the best interest of the City of Helena and to the residents and inhabitants of thereof that said gift and donation be accepted said:
“Whereas such a gift will be of great and lasting benefit to the City of Helena and to its people and
“Whereas, the mayor and the council approve of the acceptance of such a gift for use as a public library,
“The City of Helena does hereby accept the terms and provisions of the aforesaid resolution of the Unitarian Society of Helena whereby a certain gift donation and grant is made to the City of Helena for use as a public library, and does hereby accept a deed of conveyance in proper form so that certain property on which the Unitarian Church is situate on North Park Avenue and an emergency is hereby declared to exist requiring that this resolution shall be effective at once upon passage and approval.”
The property is described as the north 2216 feet of lot 12 and the south 37.84 of lot 11, block 405 of Helena townsite, having a 60-foot frontage on Park Avenue and being 100.77 deep.
The remodeling, planned by A. B. DeKay as architect, will include the raising and leveling of the main floor which now is sloping, the inclusion of a new heating plant with automatic stoker, and various alterations necessary to make the building complete for library purposes.
Just inside the main entrance on Park Avenue and on the left will be the librarian’s office with that of her assistants opposite on the right. Down the center of the main floor will be placed the book “stacks” and on each side and in the rear, well lighted by windows, will be reading tables. The entire floor will be covered with battleship linoleum.
On the level of the balcony, which will be reached from stairways at both front and rear, will be additional book “stacks” extending nearly the length of the building with a runway guarded by a railing to make them available to the public.
The church has a full concrete basement, in the end of which will be installed, with rest rooms for men and for women on each side. In the basement also will be installed the “stacks” for reference works and reserve books and pamphlets, and in the rear will be “children’s rooms”, approximately 26 by 48 feet in size with a separate entrance on the north side. Just south of this room will be a work room and the janitor’s room.
The remodeling will be thorough and according to modern library practices as modified by the size and general arrangement of the building. The structure itself, since its active use as a church edifice, has been kept in excellent condition by the Women’s Alliance and is in need of only a few minor repairs. Architects estimate that its prospective service life is 100 years. When turned over to the city, it will be ready for moving in of the library at once.
The Unitarians were first organized in Helena prior to 1900 when the Reverend Caruthers presented the principles of the principles of the society to those interested. The Unitarian Society of Helena, Montana, was incorporated in 1900 and re-incorporated in perpetuity in 1931. Although it has generously given away its church building for the use of the people of Helena, it will not disband but will continue its activities on the same plan as in the last several years.
As pastor of the Unitarian group, the Rev. Mr. Carruthers was followed by the Rev. Leslie Sprague whose administration plans for the church building had their inception. These plans were brought to fruition by his successor, the Rev. Carleton W. Brown and completed by the Rev. Leslie W. Sprague. The cornerstone of the building was laid in 1901 and work on the structure began at once, with completion within a few months. Other pastors of the Unitarian church here were the Revs. E. Stanton Hodgin, Frank Powell, H.N. Schumacher, and E.M. Cosgrove. For the last several years the group has had only local leaders.
Present officers of the Unitarian Society of Helena are Henry Sieben, president; Eugene Sanden, secretary; and Harry G. Pickett, treasurer. The board of trustees is composed of Mr. Pickett, Fred Sheriff, Mrs. H.W. Childs and A. J. Roberts.
In the movement to make public donation of the church building to the city for library purposes, Mrs. Childs, who has been active in the Women’s Alliance, has had a prominent role. Legal arrangements were in the hands of Mr. Sanden, who spent much time in perfecting them. Other members of the board of trustees and of the society have given earnest and unselfish cooperation.
Today it was said that the gift was in accordance with the ideals of the society which always has stood for the moral and intelligent development of the community. The Rev. Mr. Crocker, the first Unitarian minister here, was also the secretary of the Helena library board and took an active role in that institution as well as being active in humanitarian work.
It was the idea of the group in making this gift to perpetuate in the finest way the ideals of the group.
Probably no institution in Helena is used by a greater number of people than the public library. Figures for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1932, show that 10,558 borrower’s cards were in actual use, representing 89% of the city’s population, and since its organization in 1886 as a free public library 34,562 borrower’s cards have been issued.
In the list of those who patronize the Helena library are virtually all who attend schools and those of maturer years in all ranks and occupations. It has always been a working library and its shelves and cases have been filled to meet wants and needs as they developed.
The history of the Helena public library dates back to pioneer days. The Helena Library association , its predecessor, was organized in 1868, and by means of subscriptions the association struggled to build up a library. This work was carried on privately until 1886, when the City of Helena voted to maintain a free public library. In 1897 the city erected the auditorium on Warren Street at Seventh Ave with a library building in connection.
As the library continued to grow in size and in popular favor, there came need for more room and facilities. Money, however, was missing and for a number of years the library has struggled along, making the best of its rather dingy and dilapidated, yet withal managing to expand and improve its services to the public.
In the last 25 years numerous plans for providing a better and lasting building have been considered, but none could be carried to completion. The finances of the library were sufficient only to its current needs, although 15 years ago a building fund was started. It has since grown but little more than $5,000.
The Helena public library is supported by a tax levy of 1 1/2 mills, which produces a revenue of approximately $9,000 annually. To this is added small income from the investment of the larger portion of the building fund and receipt from book fines and the like. The library is managed by an independent board of seven members and a staff of seven. The present board is composed of Mayor C.J. Baus . . (missing), member ex officio; Fred Sanden, chairman; Judge R. Lee Word; Judge A. Horsky; Mrs. John H. Burke, Mrs. Victor K.Kessler, and W.W.Casper. The staff is headed by Mrs. Mabel K. Mi . . . (missing) as librarian and include four full-time and two part-time workers and janitor. These are Charlotte Schneider, Erin Janzig, May Shepherd, and Marylouise Bennett, assistant librarians on full-time and Luella Baum and Evelyn Mills, assistants of part-time work, with James W Ber. . .(missing) as janitor.
The library’s equipment is unusually complete, and testifies to the success of its efforts to be an educational factor in the community. At the beginning of the present fiscal year the library contained 63,429 volumes, incuding fiction and other books, 109,299 pamphlets5,404 mounted pictures and 3,368 current periodicals, of which approximately 125 were newspapers. On the city’s estimate of assets these were valued at $70,634.21, but this figure obviously is far less than the actual value, for some of the books and documents in the library are rare and almost priceless, particularly those related to certain phases of Montana history.
Work for children has been especially emphasized and one portion of the loan department has been set aside for children and young people. In this department are kept 9,716 volumes of the best juvenile books, and in the past year freer access to them for the school children of the city has been provided by the establishment of branches in some of the public schools.
(The copy of the original newspaper clipping was bad and truncated. This is the second in a series of retypings of clips.)