The Park City Library—A Community Project for Many Years
The Park City Library, for many the heart of Park City, is the result of many, many years of community effort. Back in September 1888 the Park Record reported, “Miss Lizzie Barbee has been appointed librarian for the Ladies Library Association library.” Park City had a library before Utah had statehood! In February 1889 the Park Record listed the 82 new books the library had received. The paper reported that the books had “cost the ladies upwards of $75″, bringing the total number of books in the Library to 327. This first library was created in a room in the basement of the Congregational Church and was open to all who wanted to use it. When the City opened its own library the books and furnishings were donated to it. The Congregational Church, which became the Park City Community Church in 1919, was located at 402 Park Avenue. The church building, now a private residence, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Main Street Library
518 Main Street
The front page headline the August 3, 1917 Park Record read, “A Public Library for Park City.” Two Park City women had presented the Mayor and City Council a petition signed by more the 200 resident property owners and taxpayers asking that a public library be established, and that an annual tax of one mill be levied upon properties in Park City for maintenance. A special election was held to submit the proposition to the taxpayers. The official tally showed 50 votes cast in favor of the library and 16 against.
The Library was established in the building adjoining the then City Hall. Before housing the Library, this one-story building, which was built just after the Great Fire of 1898, had at various times contained a tailor, a harness maker, and a furniture shop. During the 1940’s the Library was opened for three hours in the evening Monday through Saturday and an hour and a half in the afternoon on Tuesday and Saturday. In February, 1949 the Park Record reported that due to the cold weather and an inadequate heating system in the Library, the Mayor and City Council found it necessary to close the library in the evening until further notice. Over the years the Library grew until there were over 5,000 volumes on hand in addition to popular magazines and periodicals. Volunteers from the Woman’s Athenaeum and other civic organizations staffed the library and aided the librarian in keeping the books bound and in repair. The old City Hall, the bell tower, and the old Public Library building are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These buildings, which were restored in 1983, now house the Park City Museum, the Visitors Information Center, and Wyoming Woolens.
The Miners Hospital Library
1354 Park Avenue
As the City grew, so did its library needs. In 1980 Parkites rallied to the cause and $800,000 was raised through a bond issue and private donations to restore the old Miners Hospital as the new home of the Park City Library. The Miner’s Hospital had served the community’s medical needs from 1904 until the mid-50’s when it had become obsolete and was shut down. In the 1970s, the building was a boarding house and, later, a youth hostel. Despite its historic status, the building was nearly razed in the late 1970s. A public outcry to preserve the building ensued, and it was ultimately donated to the City. Preservation of the historic landmark began with the successful relocation of the 400-ton hospital structure from near the Park City Mountain Resort to City Park.
There it remained vacant until it was converted to the Library. To save money, volunteers did all the demolition work, and lugged truckloads of debris to the dump. Through detailed, faithful restoration the building appears today almost exactly as it did when it was dedicated as the Miners Hospital in 1904. Inside, historic integrity was preserved by attention to detail such as the rich oak woodwork surrounding massive double-hung windows and by including the old operating table and lamp in the decor.
On September 6, 1982, 78 years after the Miners Hospital first opened its doors to injured miners, the building was rededicated as the Park City Library. The “Book Brigade,” a human chain of over 750 people, passed approximately 5,000 volumes three-quarters of a mile from the former Library on Main Street to the new Library at the Miners Hospital. The building, now the Miners Hospital Community Center, is listed on the National Register on Historic Places.
The Park City Library and Education Center
1993 – Present
1255 Park Avenue
In 1990 the Board of the Park City Library, realizing the Library was outgrowing Miners Hospital, began to look at options for more space. Board members considered an annex to Miners Hospital, a new library building, and the renovation of another old building, the old Park City High School. They decided on the high school because it offered the potential for flexibility, and the space to serve the growing community for 15 to 20 years. The Board spent a year and half year holding public meetings to gain community and municipal support.
The original building was completed in February, 1928 for just under $200,000. It served as Park City High School for 49 years. The building was abandoned in 1981, and ownership transferred to the City. It stood boarded up and in disrepair for 12 years while many projects for the site were proposed and rejected.
The campaign for the preservation of the high school resulted in the $2.5 million restoration and its 1993 reincarnation as the Park City Library and Education Center. The imaginative renovation kept the best of the past and designed a beautiful, serviceable, public building. The Library is located in the old gymnasium, and offers 17,000 square feet of space on two floors, triple the space of the Miners Hospital Building.
Community members again showed their support for the Library. Tax dollars paid for the construction and operating budget, but much of the money for the expanded collection came from private donations. These benefactors are recognized on the Founders Club Glasswork at the circulation desk and a ceramic tile Distinguished Donor Wall display in the Library. Volunteers once again helped with the move, but aided this time by boxes and trucks.
Historical charm has been preserved, and comfortable oak furnishings invite leisurely reading and relaxation. In addition to the Library, the City found other education related tenants to fill all usable space. The third floor Jim Santy Auditorium is used for the Sundance Film Festival, the ongoing Park City Film Series sponsored by the Park City Arts Council, and other community events.
The Reading Garden 1997
The Reading Garden, was another community project. A local couple conceived the idea and brought it to fruition with the cooperation of The Friends of the Park City Library, Park City Municipal Corporation, and dozens of volunteers. Over 300 donors contributed money to the Garden, and 77 contributed time, talent, and materials. One of the unique features is handmade stepping stones flanking the pathways, personalized with hand prints, paw prints and drawings. The Reading Garden offers a sheltered and tranquil place to read a book, chat with a friend, or simply enjoy a beautiful day.
Expansion Project 2004
The library expanded into existing classroom space in the building, which was remodeled to become part of the library’s space, adding an additional 3300 square feet in 2004. The added space was used to create a more spacious children’s area, increase the capacity of the public internet computers section, and provide additional space for the collection, which was quickly outgrowing the existing space. The expansion was projected to supply growth space for the library for another seven to nine years.
The Park City Library is supported by the taxpayers of Park City, The Friends of the Park City Library, grants and private donations. Everyone is welcome to use the library, but a library card is required for check out privileges.