Site and Foresight

From Glencoe Public Library | Centennial Celebration

The following is the text of a typewritten article written by Glencoe Librarian Helen Beckwith circa 1940. A PDF of this document (which shows corrections and marginalia) is available here (PDF).

by Helen Beckwith
Glencoe Librarian

For many years newcomers to Glencoe have wondered who owned that large and unusually attractive piece of property in the very heart of the village.

Many assumed that only a far sighted Park Board could be commended for preserving, in the business district, these few rolling acres of giant oaks, elms, chestnuts and other native trees.

Some of the more observing newcomers noted the flowering orchard trees and lilacs on the hill in the center of the property and surmised, that it was the former homesite of a wealthy philanthropist who graciously willed the property to the village.

Both guesses were wrong.

The Library Board, with an eye to the distant future, signed up this property twenty-five years ago and paid for it in small, painless, increments over a period of two decades.

Then, by virtually the same method, the Library Board accumulated sufficient funds for a new building.

Next month on this enviable site the Library Board will open the doors of a new $100,00.00 library for Glencoe's 8,758 citizens.

It is not the purpose of this article to extol the beauties and virtues of our new library building. We will pass that fruitful subject with a cordial invitation to the reader to drop in any time and see for himself.

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Our present purpose is to tell the story of the acquisition of our building site, the accumulation of building funds, and, finally, the erection of the new building. We hope that it may be helpful to other Libraries who are nursing fond hopes for a new library building sometime in the distant future.

As a background for the story, let us very briefly review the early history of the Glencoe library. There we will find, at the very start, evidence of the ingenuity and hard work of those who are primarily responsible for the circumstances of which we boast today.

In 190 [sic] a group of Glencoe residents, under the able leadership of Mr. Otto R. Barnett, petitioned for a referendum vote at the next general election for the establishment of a Glencoe Public Library. Although a majority of those voting on the proposition favored the library, the proposition was lost because the statute required a majority of all the voters voting at the general election. Hence, those voting at the election who failed to mark the referendum ballot were {inadvertently, perhaps), voting against the establishment of the library. A snail minority, who claimed that the referendum was merely an effort to provide quarters for the Woman's Library Club, were thus able to defeat the proposition.

The following year the proposition was again defeated-- a majority of those voting on the proposition again favoring the library but, again, that majority being less than a majority of all those voting on all propositions at that election.

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Undaunted, Mr. Barnett at his own expenses journeyed to Springfield, drafted a bill to cure this exasperating technicality, and finally succeeded in having it enacted by the legislature on the last day of the session.

At the next special election the establishment of the Glencoe Public Library was approved and the library, under the librarianship of Librarian Emeritus Sarah S. Hammond, immediately started to function in one room of the elementary school with a small collection of donated books.


In 191 , [sic] Mr. Barnett (who was President of the Glencoe Library Board for somewhat over 20 years after its establishment) noted that the owner of this centrally located half-block of property, the late Mr. William H. Johnson, was considering selling. Mr. Johnson, a public spirited citizen, was entirely in accord with the idea of preserving this property against commercial development and was entirely willing to sell it for such purpose at an inside price. However, no cash was available and the Library Board had no authority or power to contract for the purchase of this valuable site because that would increase the indebtedness beyond the legal limit.

Again ingenuity came into play to save the situation. The whole story was related to the President of the Chicago Title and Trust Company, thereby challenging that organization to act Pro Bono Publico.

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As a result the Chicago Title & Trust Company agreed to purchase that property for the lowest available cash price and to enter into a contract to turn it over to the Library Board at exact cost, plus 5% interest, provided we would pay at least $1,000 a year on the purchase price and further provided we could find 25 responsible citizens who would enter into an agreement with Chicago Title & Trust Company to indemnify it to the extent of $1,000 each in case we did not pay them for the property. In a matter of hours such an indemnifying agreement was enthusiatically [sic] signed by not 25 but 169 of our responsible townsmen. The property was thereupon bought by Chicago Title & Trust Company; Mr. Johnson turned back $2,500 of the purchase price to be used as the nucleus of a fund for the development of that property; and the Village Board approved the levy of the special library site tax of mills (provided by statute) for a period of [sic] years.

It was considered that while it was being bought normally as a library site the property was more extensive than the library would require for a new building in the somewhat indefinite future. Accordingly, before the tax levying ordinance was passed by the Village Board, contracts were entered into whereby the village had an underlying option to purchase so much of that property as might not be required for a library building upon repaying to the library board a proportionate part of the cost. Also there was a secondary underlying option to the park board

The options expired without anything being done by the

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Village Board or the Park Board and by 19 [sic] the Chicago Title & Trust Co. had been paid in full and the property belonged to the Library Board free from all incumbrances.

During this period the three buildings on the property (Mr. Johnson's home, Mr. Johnson's barn, and a small real estate office) were rented to provide a source of income which, over a period of years, swelled the Building and Site Fund. In 19__ the county took a portion of the land for road purposes, for which the library was paid $____________. Over a period of time the building and site tax collections exceeded the purchase price of the property and thereby also increased the fund.

As a result, in 1940 the library not only owned the property clear but, had a balance of about $60,000 in ts building and si[te] fund.

With this picture the Library Board, at the April 2, 1940 election, obtained the overwhelming approval of the taxpayers of a bond issue for the additional $37,500 needed to finish the job. This bond issue will be retired at the rate of only $5000.00 per year starting in 146, when the tax requirements would otherwise be normally reduced by that amount.

In addition, the new building is so located on the site that a large portion of the land is available, when needed, for a community center building or a new village hall.

Hence, Glencoe has, through long and careful planning, achieved a beautiful new library on a million dollar site without any noticeable pain to the poor taxpayer. Had it not been for

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the labor and foresight of such men as Mr. Barnett and Mr. Johnson many years ago we would now be facing the dull prospect of spending many more years in our old quarters which are located away from the center of things and which are already over-crowded.

Much credit should also be given to our Librarian Emeritus, Miss Sarah S, Hammond. Miss Hammond's untiring efforts as Glencoe librarian for over 25 years were always directed toward the fulfillment of the dream which has now come true. The community has recently been overjoyed to learn that Miss Hammond is journeying from California to attend the informal opening ceremonies.

And so, we congratulate ourselves, but not for what the present Board and the present librarian has accomplished —- anybody can build a building —- we congratulate ourselves on our good fortune in having had predecessors with such foresight and ability.