Located in a wonderful park boasting a gazebo, circular garden with benches and splashing fountain, and a huge sculpture of a raptor, Fredericksburg’s Pioneer Memorial Library is housed in a stately, yet startlingly symmetrical building.
Oddly the four sides each have their own identical entrance (at least one is wheelchair accessible) making for a bit of an inventory nightmare as people easily miss the checkout desk. Lovely wrought iron balconies adorn the second floor, though you can’t go out on them for safety reasons.
The facility is right on Main Street, just steps from the biergartens of this German toned town in the hill country of Texas.
This rolling land is home to arroyos and surprising features like Enchanted Rock and in wet springs and summers is carpeted by the wildflowers seen in this foyer display…
…unfortunately, they’re in a drought, but I still caught the odd patch of pretty wildflowers in full bloom, despite it being late fall.
Inside, the four hallways, some with antique glass fronted cases filled with old books, lead to the center lobby. Downstairs, whitewashed limestone, gray wainscoting and wood predominate, while Texas style swinging doors lead to the restrooms.
The building started life as the Gillespie County Courthouse. Designed by architect Alfred Giles (he won the $50 contest prize) it was completed in 1882, but a brand new courthouse was dedicated in 1939 and by 1963 this gorgeous native limestone edifice had been condemned and was home to only “bats, pigeons and the occasional drifter.”
In 1965, the visiting McDermotts of Dallas decided that preserving the structure to use for the library would be a worthy effort and after a renovation the library moved in. Everywhere the furnishings are authentic or era appropriate and it’s lit by period chandeliers and high windows with wood shutters.
They have wifi and four public internet computers and a printer, but for me the main attractions were all the unique touches like this cool old metal donations box that looks like a book Harry Potter or Hermione would use to cast spells.
Old ranch tools and arched windows nicely frame shelves of books.
The Children’s Area has sturdy antique toddler furniture including an easel table. The witness stand has plenty of room to store cushions for the Monday and Wednesday storytimes underneath, and what a great place for a small child to read a story while engulfed in the arms of this enormous chair.
Double staircases lead to the adult area on the second floor (created by a second renovation in 1984), and another lobby area with Our Town. This large tapestry employs different media to create a 3-D effect and includes many recognizable local features.
Commissioned for the 1967 restoration it was completed over nine months by Mrs. Carletta Gydeson Broun. View it while sitting on the original benches from the old courthouse.
They have books on CD, tapes and DVDs and there’s even an elevator. Old card catalogs are scattered about (and people keep using them though they are not updated. Unfortunately they’ll need to empty them to force patrons to use the pacs.)
Reference librarian, Maria Ramos, who has worked there for 33 years, was so friendly and informative about the history of the structure. She pointed out many of the furnishings retained from the courthouse days…
…as well as these wonderful old hummingbird doorknobs used as the 1967 renovation’s theme.
The upstairs was the main court and there’s even a small spiral staircase where the judge would ascend from his chamber. It’s now roped off but makes a lovely reading alcove.
What an amazing job Pioneer ML has done conserving and celebrating the history of the town and building while creating a vibrant and modern library.