The Dr. Eugene Clark Library is the oldest continually operating library in the State of Texas and the first city library built in the state. This unique and historically significant building was built in 1889 and dedicated on July 6, 1900.
The building was built with a $10,000 bequest from Dr. Eugene Clark.
Dr. Clark was a native of New Orleans, and his father died on the battlefield during the Civil War when Dr. Clark was only three. Mr. Clark's life-long friend E.H. Purcell was with him as he lay dying and Mr. Clark requested that Purcell take care of his wife and son. Three years later Mrs. Clark lay on her death-bed. She entrusted the care of her young son to her dearest friend Miss H.M. Young. Miss Young raised the boy as if she were her own and Mr. Purcell watched over the progress of the young boy as he grew.
The young Clark was a great satisfaction to both Miss Young and Mr. Purcell. He graduated from Tulane Medical School with highest honors and did his residency at Charity Hospital. He graduated in May of 1883 and came to Lockhart.
He entered practice with Dr. Lancaster, but Lancaster soon abandoned his practice, leaving the 21 year old Clark to handle the practice alone. He practiced medicine for 13 years in Lockhart and during this time a mutual love between Dr. Clark and the town grew.
In 1896, Dr. Clark left Lockhart to study in London and Vienna. In 1897, he returned to Texas to set up practice in San Antonio in his new speciality---ear, nose and throat.
While practicing in San Antonio, Dr. Clark became very ill. He went to New York for surgery. On his way to New York he came through Lockhart to see his old friends. In New York his condition was pronounced incurable, and he left to return to the only home he had known in New Orleans.
On his death bed, with Mr. Purcell and Miss Young by his side he dictated a will specifying that the citizens of Lockhart should have a library and lyceum. His will left $10,000 for the building of which $6,000 was to be used for construction, $1,000 to buy books and the remainder was to be put in a trust to maintain the building and purchase new books.
The library was designed and built by Mr. T.S. Hodges, a local Lockhart builder who built many of the other outstanding building in Lockhart including the old jail and the First Christian Church.
The library served as a culturally center for the city of Lockhart for many years. President William Howard Taft has spoken from the stage in the library and Dorothy Sarnoff has performed here.
The story is told that when Ms. Sarnoff performed she remarked to her audience "If you are bored with my performance tonight, you can just reach over and grab a good book to read."
Many local community groups and organizations held theatrical productions, recitals and concerts in the library. The Lockhart Community Concert Group held seasonal programs in the building until 1956. Many local residents fondly recall the days of performing on the stage in the library.
The library is a two story Greek cross plan and is a Classical Revival building of red brick with limestone trim. Four projecting pedimented pavilions form the arms. The main facade facing east is divided into three bays by pilasters and contains a central stained glass memorial window classically framed by pilasters and a round keystone arch. The southeast entrance has double doors with a multi-lighted fanlight also framed by pilasters and keystone arch. Crowning the building is an octagonal drum, embellished by pilasters and entablature and supports the central dome.
The architecture of the building has been a source of curiosity to many professional architects and the library is visited annually by many amateur and professional architects, including regular visits by architecture majors from the University of Texas.
Inside the building the pressed tin ceiling, woodwork, lighting fixtures and shelving along the outside walls are all original to the building.
When built, the library had auditorium style seating in the center of the building and on the balcony. In 1956 the seating was removed to allow for the expansion of the book collection.
THE IRVING CLUB
The Irving Club is synonymous with the library and it is impossible to imagine one without the other.
The Irving Club is the second oldest Women's Federated Club in the State of Texas. Founded in September of 1896, the ladies of this club met over the M.M. Blanks general store. They named themselves for the noted author Washington Irving. In 1897 they joined the newly formed Texas Federation of Women's Clubs.
For years they endured and flourished in several locations around town. While it may have been a surprise to the town of Lockhart to learn that Dr. Clark had left them the money to build a library, it was certainly no surprise to anyone when he named nine members of the Irving Club to the Board of Trustees for the library. It was this Board of Trustees that ordered the building to be built and that the building should include a single room off a balcony gallery for the Club to meet in. The first meeting in the Irving Club Room was held on February 20, 1900.
The Irving Club continues to meet here today and the furnishing are all original to the room. The Club has served at various times as a literary club, a newcomers club, a library auxiliary and a ladies Chamber of Commerce.
Folklore relates the story of Dr. Clark and his love for a member of the Irving Club. As the tale goes, Dr. Clark fell in love with Mamie Steele, who was a member of the Irving Club. Ms. Steele did not return his love and married another. According to the legend, Dr. Clark never recovered from his love of Mamie Steele and his bequest to the city was in fact his tribute to Mamie Steele and his un-requited love.
Today the library continues to serve as a focal point for community activities and is the major source of informational and pleasure reading for Lockhart and Caldwell County residents.
Today with the help of an ISTEA Grant, a Texas State
Library and Archives Grant, and local support the original building is being
restored to its original splendor. The library will expand into the
adjacent Masonic Building, also an historic building constructed in 1923, and
the two buildings will be connected to form the Clark Complex.
Construction of the restoration and expansion is expected to be completed by
April of 2001.
Today with the help of an ISTEA Grant, a Texas State Library and Archives Grant, and local support the original building is being restored to its original splendor. The library will expand into the adjacent Masonic Building, also an historic building constructed in 1923, and the two buildings will be connected to form the Clark Complex. Construction of the restoration and expansion is expected to be completed by April of 2001.
Dr. Eugene Clark Library -- Lockhart, Texas
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Last modified March 09, 2002