By: Ann Webb | Gwinnett Citizen
Historic Preservation Architect Eugene Barrington presents first phase of Conditions Assessment Report to Norcross Woman’s Club Restoration Steering Committee Members.  Shown with Barrington (L-R) Carol Hitchcock, Anne Webb, Rebecca Norcross, and Carol Bryant.

Norcross Woman’s Club honored for Preservation of Women’s History and Gwinnett’s First Library Norcross Woman’s Club honored for Preservation of Women’s History and Gwinnett’s First Library 

The Norcross Woman’s Club campaign to restore and preserve its historic Old Library building, the first library in Gwinnett and its Women’s History Collection has received international recognition through the Women’s History and Resource Center of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.  Georgia Federation North East District President Renette Todd presented the citation at the annual fall district meeting in Toccoa.

Founded in 1984, the Women’s History and Resource Center collects, preserves, interprets and promotes the history of the GFWC and women volunteers.  The WHRC documents the social and political contributions of GFWC clubwomen from 1890 to the present through the GFWC archives, related special collections, and publications. 

The Woman’s Club has formed a Steering Committee of women from across Gwinnett County, launched a fundraising campaign, and retained historic preservation architect Eugene Barrington of the firm Barker, Cunningham, Barrington of Cumming, GA.  The project honors the memory of Mayor Emeritus Lillian Hicks Webb, a longtime club member.

While design origin and plans are unclear, Barrington’s initial Conditions Assessment Report presented to the Steering Committee meeting October 11, 2017, addresses whether the building might have been constructed from a Carnegie library plan. “There were originally 24 Public Libraries and 5 Academic Libraries in Georgia constructed with grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York between 1898 and 1914…. Of the 24 buildings remaining, only 8 still function as a library,” Barrington noted. 

First Library in Gwinnett County, c. 1921First Library in Gwinnett County, c. 1921Minutes extant from the club’s founding in 1905 reveal several interesting Carnegie influences.  Andrew Carnegie’s support for creating public libraries was an integral part of The American Library Movement.  Federation Women’s Clubs across the country are credited with establishing 75 percent of all public libraries, and the Norcross Woman’s Club was part of this effort. 

After affiliating with the Georgia Federation of Women in 1906, the club’s involvement in the Library Movement was first suggested in 1907 with the state federation setting aside a “library day” for all clubs to observe.   Club President Mrs. Homer Jones arranged for Miss Ann Wallace, Librarian at the Carnegie Library in Atlanta, to speak at a mass meeting held at the school in October 1907.  That year, the club opened a library at the school on College Street in Norcross.

Club members turned to Edward F. Buchanan, a hometown boy who had become successful on Wall Street. They planned to use his gift of $2,500.00 to support the library and appeal to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for $5,000.00 to construct the building.  Norcross Mayor Johnson wrote letters to Carnegie in 1907 – 1908.  A grant was offered on condition the town would guarantee an additional $500 to support the library. The Town Council was unable to guarantee the amount, and the Carnegie grant was never secured.

Another delay occurred when Buchanan suffered financial reverses, and requested the club loan the $2,500.00 to his mother Mrs. Tedder, at 8 percent interest.  It was 1818 before the club received a settlement from Mrs. Tedder’s Estate, with Dr. O.O. Simpson presenting a check for $4,131.97.  The next year, the club purchased the lot at 65 North Peachtree Street from John Taylor Simpson.

Woman’s Club President Mrs. Jones and Miss Lola Key went to Atlanta in 1921 to see a Miss Templeton “to get ideas, plans, and suggestions from her,” and features were added to these plans. Researchers believe this was Charlotte Templeton, identified as being on The Georgia Library Commission that year and speculate whether these plans may have been Carnegie in origin.  An article written by Miss Templeton was read to the club in 1922, and her name is found on a list of book donors to the library that year.  

Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Charles L. Bass, Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of Georgia, laid the new library cornerstone June 18, 1921, “with an unusually large crowd there to witness the ceremonies which were impressive,“ club Minutes report.

The new library of Stone Mountain granite and pressed brick, described by The Atlanta Journal as “one of the handsomest in North Georgia,” opened September 1, 1921, with much fanfare.  Initiated by the vision of civic-minded women for a library in their town, it became the genesis of the Lanier Regional Library System.

The Woman’s Club Restoration GO FUND ME PAGE can be accessed at https://www.gofundme.com/nwc-historic-library-restoration

Published: 2017-11-23 10:40