A century-old Harlem house was recognized Wednesday for its 25th birthday as the city's library.
On Oct. 18, 1981, the former Walton House at 375 North Louisville St. was reborn as the Harlem Walton Library. On Wednesday, current and former city leaders, members of the county's library board and the Harlem Woman's Club gathered to honor the commitment of the community that made the library possible.
"The Harlem Woman's Club may have come up with the project, but it became everyone's project," said Emily Middleton, a member of the library board.
Former Harlem Mayor Edgar Clary told of the love he and his mother had for the bookmobile and the need for the city to start its own library, a process that started long before 1981. In 1974, Montine Walton donated the building to the city of Harlem with the condition that it house a library named in honor of William Walton, her late husband, and his mother Helen Walton.
The gift of the building was only the beginning as city officials and members of the Harlem Woman's Club lobbied the county for funding, and the East Central Georgia Regional Library System to provide books and materials.
"This was our dream," said Linda Eckenroth, former president of the woman's club and a leader of the effort to launch the library. "What we envisioned at the time is exactly what we have today."
That vision began with a complete remodel of the building. The woman's club spearheaded an effort to open up the floor plan, remove broken windows and repaint the building.
Sue Whiddon, a member of the woman's club, said weeds stood high on the property, which she called an "eyesore" when the project began. She said what became of that eyesore was a building to stand for all generations that has helped the city to grow.
As the city has grown, the library also grew with the addition of a 700-square-foot meeting space in 2003. Branch librarian Amanda Dove-Cash said patrons now check out 2,329 books or electronic media per month and its summer reading programs draw hundreds of children.
Wednesday had added significance for Cash, who celebrated her 26th birthday. The Harlem native, who has served in that capacity for five years, said she has spent much of her life at the library.
"I used to come here as a child, actually," she said, adding that she was a volunteer long before becoming a librarian. She said her mother, City Manager Jean Dove, enrolled her in summer reading programs when she was a child.
The ceremony also recognized Nancy Morrison, the first Harlem branch librarian, and Dr. Jeff Hardin, a former member of the county's library board.
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