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Library History


Macon's first lending library was established in 1836 and operated under the guidance of the Macon Lyceum and Library Society.  In 1841, the Macon Literary Association proposed a library which offered "a selection of authors whose writings will have a tendency to advance us nearer to our object - the improvement of our moral and intellectual natures."  In 1874, the Macon Public Library and Historical Society was organized and operated a public library on Mulberry Street in a former Knights of Columbus building.  In 1889, the Society constructed a new library on Mulberry Street across the street from the Grand Opera House.  The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is presently occupied and being restored by the Macon Heritage Foundation.

Macon Public Library, Mulberry Street, ca. 1894

In 1898, Macon Mayor S. B. "Daisy" Price spearheaded the effort to open a second public library, known as the Free Library and Industrial School.   The Price Library, located on First Street, was open for the public until 1979 and presently houses the 911 emergency services headquarters.

                   

 Price Library, First Street; views of the original and renovated building      

In 1916, Ellen Washington Bellamy donated a site on the corner of Washington Avenue and College Street for the construction of a new library to be built in honor of her brother, Hugh Vernon Washington.  The Washington Memorial Library, designed by Nisbet and Dunwody, was opened to the public in 1922. Over the years, the Washington Memorial Library has been remodeled and expanded several times.

            

Ellen Washington Bellamy and her brother, Hugh Vernon Washington

The site donated by Mrs. Bellamy was known as Washington Place and was the home of James H. R. Washington, a former mayor of Macon.  The old Washington home was once the scene of grand social occasions, and British author William Makepeace Thackeray was entertained there when he came to Macon to give a reading.  The house has since been moved to Park Place.  Memorials to the Washington family are incorporated into the original building's architecture.  The coat of arms of the Washington family is displayed above the old front door and bas-relief cameos of Ellen Washington Bellamy, her brother Hugh Washington and their parents, James and Mary Washington, are located high on the north and south interior walls below the barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Architect's rendering of Washington Memorial Library

In an alcove on the second floor of the original portion of the library is housed a bust of the poet Sidney Clopton Lanier, designed by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, designer of Mount Rushmore National Memorial.

In 1927, the Young Women's Department of the Federated Clubs established Macon's first Negro Branch Library in a small office on New Street.  In 1940, the Negro Branch Library was opened at the Booker T. Washington Center on Cotton Avenue.  It closed in 1950.  In 1951, the L. H. Williams School became a book depository and held the summer reading program for area residents.  It officially became the Temporary Branch Library for Negroes in 1952.

In 1953, the Amelia Hutchings Memorial Library was opened in the former Georgia Negro Blind Academy on Madison Street.  The library was moved in 1968 to rented space on Riverside Drive near the College Street intersection.  The Hutchings Library, which served the black community, operated until 1970 when its collection and staff were merged with the Washington Memorial Library.

Amelia Hutchings Memorial Library, Madison Street, Pleasant Hill Neighborhood (demolished)

The first bookmobile to serve Macon and Bibb County was placed into service in 1939. Interestingly, this bookmobile was the first commercially built bookmobile in Georgia.  Service to Jones and Twiggs counties was the beginning of what is now the Middle Georgia Regional Library System and its bookmobile program.  The Negro Bookmobile was established at Washington Memorial Library in September 1951, was moved to Amelia Hutchings Library in October 1956 and served the black schools until it was phased out in September 1967. 

Middle Georgia Regional Library Bookmobile, ca. 1958

In 1946, the East Macon Branch Library was opened in a rented building near the Bibb Manufacturing Mill.  In 1959, this branch was moved into larger space within the Bibb Mill cafeteria. The East Macon Branch operated until 1967.

In 1954, the Price Library was expanded to serve as the headquarters for the Middle Georgia Regional Library's bookmobiles and the purchasing and cataloging departments.

The Washington Memorial Library added 3,000 square feet in 1956 using City of Macon bonds.

Librarian Herbert Tuggle helps a patron in the African-American Collection, ca. 1973

The Cochran Field Branch Library was opened in 1962 in a former post office and, with the library at the Porter Ellis Community Center, served the residents of southern Bibb County.

In 1967, the Shurling Branch Library was opened in rented space within the Shurlington Shopping Center.  This branch moved into a new 6,500 square foot building in 1972 within the same shopping center.  Mr. Francis Shurling donated the land, and a joint effort by the City of Macon, Bibb County, and the State of Georgia provided the construction funds.

Newly completed Shurling Branch Library, ca. 1972

During the years of 1969 and 1970, the Westgate Branch was opened to serve the people living near the Westgate Mall and the Bloomfield Branch was opened in rented space on Chambers Road.  They were later combined with the South Bibb County branches to become the Rocky Creek Branch in 1972.

To serve the rapidly growing area of North Macon, the Riverside Branch Library was opened in rented space on Riverside Drive in 1970.  This branch has recently moved to a new location in Rivergate Shopping Center off of Tom Hill, Sr. Boulevard.

In 1976, the existing structure of the Washington Memorial Library was remodeled and the land adjacent to it was purchased for expanded parking.  The Washington Memorial Library was renovated and enlarged in 1979 to its present 50,000 square feet.

Construction of addition to Washington Memorial Library, ca. 1979

In 1987, the Rocky Creek Branch was moved into a new shopping center in South Macon on Rocky Creek Road. The branch occupies 5,600 square feet.

The newest branch, which opened in early 1998, is the West Bibb Branch, located on Thomaston Road in the rapidly growing area of northwest Bibb County.