Will Be Tenn.
Secy. Of State
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greeneville-Greene County Public Library will celebrate its 105th birthday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., on Saturday, Aug. 3.
The open house celebration will take place at the library, located at 210 North Main St.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett will serve as guest speaker at the event, which will also feature special presentations on the history and current use of the library.
In Tennessee, state matters relating to public libraries come under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of State.
Library Director Don Miller said that Aug. 3 was selected because it was the only day on which Secretary of State Hargett was available to attend.
Light refreshments will be served, and there will be live music by The Smooth Sounds of Route 66.
According to information provided by Miller in an interview this week, the library had its beginnings in the setting of what was originally a public "Rest Room" for women which had been opened in 1906.
The room was the result of a project sponsored by the Cherokee Club, a local women's civic organization of the early decades of the 20th century which later was also responsible for the construction of the now-very-familiar Olde Town Gate on Tusculum Boulevard.
The Rest Room was located on North Main Street, in part of a building just north of First Presbyterian Church, Miller said. The building is no longer there.
The early 1900s were a time when all the main Greene County businesses -- department stores, five-and-ten-cent stores, grocery stores, clothing stores, drug stores, restaurants, etc. -- were in downtown Greeneville, besides governmental offices and banks.
As a result, farm families from across the county would frequently come to town on Saturdays to do their shopping, take care of their business and banking, and enjoy visiting with acquaintances from other areas of the county.
At the time, however, the downtown area offered no public facilities where women could find restrooms, or even just a quiet, clean place to sit down for a while, perhaps with a tired child.
The Rest Room provided by the Cherokee Club was designed to try to help meet that need.
Two years later, in 1908, four women within the club who had been integral in the Rest Room's establishment began placing books and magazines in one of the rooms.
Those women were: Flora "Floss" Marshall Gouchenour, 1872-1936; Quincy Loretta Marshall O'Keefe, 1866-1958; Louise Morey Allen, 1869-1961; and Frances Dickens Marshall Fox, 1868-1948.
(Editor's Note: Mrs. O'Keefe was later the editorial page editor of The Greeneville Sun from 1920-1958 and is the great-grandmother of the Sun's co-publisher and editor.)
This expanded Rest Room with reading material eventually evolved into the Greene County Public Library, the charter for which dates to 1912.
In 1913 -- exactly 100 years ago -- an act by the state legislature of that day authorized the public library here as a joint venture between Greeneville and Greene County.
The Carnegie Corporation provided $10,000 for a building, the cornerstone of which was laid in 1914 at a site on West Summer Street.
"The Carnegie Library" here, located on West Summer between the Sun and Greeneville Federal Bank, opened in 1915 and remained the community's public library until November 1975.
In that year the Greeneville-Greene County Public Library moved to its current location on North Main Street after a major, communitywide fund-raising effort.
"I believe it to be one of the oldest [public libraries] in the state," Miller said.
"This community obviously values a library and has really put blood, sweat and tears into it for a long time," the director said in an interview on Friday.
"It's important. Without the work and the genorosity of people, I don't think it would have happened."
For example, Miller pointed to the annual Library Book Sale, which brings in about $20,000 for the library from books donated by the community.
"We know that that's a measure of support in the community," he added.
"We have a community of people who really read, and they care about books, and they're willing to pass them on.
"I think it says something really good about us."
For more information about the 105th birthday celebration, call 638-5034. In addition, more information will be published on plans for the event next week.