Memorial Library of Radnor Township, Friends Meeting House

30_image01Since this series on the history of the Memorial Library of Radnor Township was started several weeks ago, the woodcut shown above of the place in which the library was founded, in 1809, has been lent to this writer. It pictures the old Radnor Friends’ Meeting and school house, as it looked when it was built in 1719.

According to the wording of old records, as brought to light by Mrs. Marie Good Hunt, librarian of the present library, “On the 21 day of the 1st month, 1809, a meeting of the subscribers and others friendly to the establishment of a library in the township of Radnor convened agreeably to public notice at Radnor School House.” Mrs. Hunt’s summary of these old records continues, “The first meeting of the now-organized Radnor Library Company was held February 2, 1809, at the Radnor School House. The building was situated on the grounds with the Meeting House, on Conestoga road at Ithan.”

A present day member of Radnor Meeting tells us that this “school house “ is the portion of the building to the right, with the small wooden door leading into it.

30_image02The second picture shown with today’s column is that of the Wayne library, built on West Lancaster avenue in 1893, on ground donated by George W. Childs, of Philadelphia. Mr. Childs had many real estate interests in the newly-developing community of Wayne in the closing years of the 19th century.

Mrs. Hunt’s records tell the amusing story of how the library books were moved – by wheelbarrow – from their former second floor quarters at 105 North Wayne avenue to their new home on West Lancaster avenue. Miss Nathalie de Canizares, then assistant librarian, helped by Edward Kirk of West Chester, who offered his services in the good cause, transported all the books in this manner, which must indeed have been a tedious one, even in the days when Lancaster pike traffic was entirely horsedrawn.

The actual moving of the books once accomplished, the matter of their arrangement was next in order. In previous locations of the library this had been done alphabetically on the shelves, according to the name of the authors. Now books were catalogued according to the Dewey-decimal system, and arranged in proper categories, such as fiction, poetry, reference, etc., under the direction of Miss Isabella Lord and a Miss Hopkins of Bryn Mawr College, whose services had been obtained for this purpose.

The library continued to function under this set-up, until the number of its books outgrew its stock space. In 1928, a donation of $3,000, given to the library by Miss Anna Markley, made possible an addition to the building in the form of a new room, which was set aside for the use of children. Mrs. Margaret Wendell Hess, with her gift for interesting young people in reading, was for some years in charge of this room. Her ”story hour” for children is still held in fond remembrance by many adult members of this community.

It was through Mrs. Hess that the late Frederick F. Hallowell established the Nancy Hallowell Memorial Fund, following the death of his daughter. Since that time, the interest from the bonds which formed the donation has been used for the purchase of children’s books. With so much emphasis now placed on the juvenile section of the library, the service to children and young people has been increasing steadily ever since.

(To be Concluded)