The home of Helen and Frank Walton was deeded to the city of Harlem by Montine Walton, widow of William Walton, on Dec. 24, 1974, to be used for a library and city offices. The library was to be named in memory of Helen and her son, William.
The house was built in 1904 by Frank Hatcher and his mother- and father-in-law, the Jerveys. Shortly after that year, it became the home of Frank and Helen Walton. They had two sons, William and Stanley.
Frank was a merchant and druggist for many years in Harlem. Helen was born in 1876 in Augusta. She was a church and civic leader. Before her marriage she was a teacher in the Kiokee section of Columbia County.
Helen Walton was a member of the Methodist church where she taught a Sunday school class for 35 years. She had a brilliant mind and was a reader of the best in literature. She could speak on any subject.
Loving books as she did, Helen Walton always wanted her home to become a library, giving people in Harlem a place to come and enjoy good literature.
Mrs. Waltons husband Frank died in 1944, as did their son, Stanley. Mrs. Walton died three years later in Chicago, at the home of her son, William.
In September 1980, the Harlem Womens Club decided to establish a library for the citizens of Harlem and the surrounding area, using the lovely home of Frank and Helen Walton for that purpose.
Mrs. John Ecken-roth, president of the club, appointed Mrs. Edward Stephany, Mrs. Jeff Little and Miss Marian Baughn as a committee to see that this project was accomplished.
There was no library in Columbia County at the time, and readers had to rely on the bookmobile from Augusta.
Mayor Edgar Clary III was in office when the work began. The city of Harlem and Columbia County worked together to make necessary changes in the building to make it suitable for use as a library.
Citizens of the community made contributions toward this project. Mr. and Mrs. Francis Tracy furnished the reading room in memory of Ruth Reville Tracy, Francis Tracys mother. Two chairs covered in needlepoint were done by her, and antiques in the room had belonged to her.
The librarys grand opening was Oct. 18, 1981, with a large crowd attending.
The library was a great success during the next few years. In the mid-1990s there were some questions about whether to keep the library open. That idea soon was resolved when the citizens of the community refused to accept the idea.
Community and city leaders got together and have worked out solutions to any problems that may have existed.
Now, a room has been added and the entire building has been renovated.
The building looks much the same as it did almost a century ago. The house is charming, with its front porch and swings at each end. If you close your eyes, its easy to imagine a warm summer evening, sitting in the swing with a gentle breeze blowing. There is a faint smell of magnolia blossoms in the air.
After being closed for renovations for several months, the much-improved Walton Library in Harlem has now reopened.
(Bette Sargent is a Harlem historian.)
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