Kane County History: As Geneva Builds New Library, Original Celebrates 110 Years

Kane County History: As Geneva Builds New Library, Original Celebrates 110 Years

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series written by representatives of Kane County historical societies and history museums. Today’s article was submitted by Terry Emma, executive director of the Geneva History Museum.

  • Editor’s Note 2: This history article is especially timely because of the construction of the new Geneva library (artist rendering above), which is expected to begin construction this summer. 

About 110 years ago, the Geneva Public Library’s original building was constructed at the corner of Second and James Street. The Craftsman architectural style was enhanced by stone exterior chimneys and Tudor half timbering with stucco. Stone for the original part of the building was from the Batavia quarry.

As early as 1933, William Blatner, founder and president of the Friends of the Geneva Public Library, had requested Frank Lloyd Wright to visit Geneva and discuss a possible library expansion needed as a result of community growth. It is uncertain whether Wright ever visited, but the library expansion funding was obtained through tax monies, and local architect Frank Gray designed the addition to augment the existing structure.

Gray also designed the 1915 Island Park Pavilion, the former 1924-25 Sixth Street School, the 1930 Logan Avenue Pump House and his own large, Tudor home at 909 South Batavia Ave. in 1927.

The library addition was completed by general contractor August Wilson in November of 1938. The exterior was of native limestone that matched the stone from the original building.

The majority of the addition was a children’s room on the main floor, which was 25 by 65 feet. A meeting room, store room and kitchen facilities were also added to the basement. The basement meeting room was left partially unfinished due to lack of funds, so the room was little used until World War II, when free and extensive use was granted to the local Red Cross committee for its work.

Geneva Public Library Children’s Room, circa 1954. (CREDIT: Geneva History Museum)

A $500 bequest received from Mrs. H. Medora Long’s estate was used to purchase furniture for the children’s room. It was felt that this was a fitting and proper memorial in honor of Mrs. Long’s only three daughters, who died in the 1903 Chicago Iroquois Theatre fire. More than 300 people attended the formal opening of the Children’s Room on Nov. 27, 1938.

Exterior view of the east facade of the Geneva Public Library, circa 1984.

In 1986, the library transformed again with a 6,000 square foot addition, which doubled the size of the building. This addition absorbed the main floor children’s room into what is now the Main Entrance and Visitor Services area. The lower level became the Junior Department, decorated in bright blue and rust where children could explore library materials.

This summer, children can enjoy visiting the Geneva History Museum as we partner with the Geneva Public Library for drop-in story times and activities at 10 a.m. on June 26July 26 and Aug. 8, which includes free admission to the museum.

Children can also explore math and literacy activities in the Museum’s Children’s Gallery. Go Figure! is a discovery-filled traveling exhibit created by the Minnesota Children’s Museum and brings to life five popular children’s books in gigantic reproductions of the artist’s illustrations.  Books include: Arthur’s Pet Business by Marc Brown, The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins, The Quilt by Ann Jonas, Frog and Toad are Friends: A Lost Button by Arnold Lobel and Goldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall.

This exhibition is sponsored by the Fabyan Foundation.

Can’t visit the museum for story time? Explore our three galleries Tuesday through Saturday during special summer hours 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3 per person, $2 for children ages 3-10 or free for museum members.
  • FEATURE PHOTO CAPTION: Exterior view of the south and west facade of the Geneva Public Library, circa 1908.

Exterior view of the south facade of the Geneva Public Library, circa 1984.

Read The Kane County History Series!