November 19, 2014
A tour of a historic public library after its controversial sale
by Claire Kelley
The South Euclid Library, a branch of the Cuyahoga Library System in Cleveland Ohio, looks like a medieval castle or an English manor house. USA Today included the library on its list of “10 Great Places to Find a Nook and Read a Book” with an recommendation from librarian Nancy Pearl:
“Built in 1928, this library is the former residence of William Telling, a wealthy Ohioan,” Pearl says. “His mansion is like a dream of a library with beautiful leaded windows, a reading garden with a fountain and 26 different rooms.” Among them: a greenhouse, an aviary and a cozy study. “Although the past is very much alive here, the needs of present-day library users — for new books, Internet access, discussion groups and homework help — are not neglected.”
Its character and charm is part of the reason a committee to save the library has been fighting for two years against a decision by the city to sell the library. Even though a petition has been circulated with over 2,500 signatures, the situation looks dire — the property has already been purchased by Richard Barone, who plans to turn the space into The American Porcelain Museum.
Do you have an opinion about the future of this library? Do you know of a situation in your city where there is a similar fight for preservation of a library taking place? If so, please email [email protected].
In 1928, William Telling began work on his dream home, which was designed by architect John Sherwood Kelly in the French Chateau style..
In 1950, the Cuyahoga County Library System needed a new facility and Arthur Fiske, a member of the board of trustees felt that this unique building should be preserved for use as a public library. The Telling property opened as a library in 1952, and in 1971 when it became a branch library (the regional facility moved to Mayfield), the building was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
The reading garden, with its turtle baby fountain, is a favorite place for adults to read and for children to make a wish.
William Telling had a passion for birds and flowers, and these details can be seen in the wrought iron in the reading room.
In 2002, the Friends of the Library funded the restoration of this beautiful ceiling, which is now a cozy reading room.
In addition to reference services and readers advisory, the library hosts storytimes, book discussions, and homebound services.
The children’s areas are home to a toy collection and a tropical fish aquarium.
In 1960 the solarium was enclosed and now houses a reading garden. Upstairs, a tiled bathtub was uncovered during a renovation
The building’s steep roof, stone and brick construction, conical towers, leaded windows, marble flooring, and these semicircular arches are the distinctive features of a French country house.
The Cuyahoga County Public Library branch information page calls this unique library a place where “one experiences the blending of the past and future. The building is a gift to the community, one to be shared with generations to come.”
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.