ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – You don’t often see centenarians getting a facelift, but it’s happening in downtown St. Louis.
The Central Library on Olive, currently closed for renovations, first opened to the public 100 years ago Friday – January 6, 1912.
That’s three months before the Titanic set off on her fateful maiden voyage.
Executive director Waller McGuire says the passage of a century may have removed some of the luster from what was a very big deal at the time.
“A hundred years ago many St. Louisans had never read a book underneath electric light before,” he explained during a ceremony Friday at Christ Church Cathedral next door to the library. “The very concept of a public library was unknown to much of the United States a century ago, and virtually unknown throughout the world.”
A crowd of people turned out in their Sunday best to get a look at the new library.
“A huge crowd climbed up that great staircase and passed through the bronze doors,” McGuire said, “and saw for the first time the magnificance and the possibilities as they were revealed.”
For many, he speculated, seeing the vast space stuffed floor-to-ceiling with books on every possible subject was a futuristic experience, like they were living out a scene from a book by Jules Verne or H.G. Wells.
Working to restore that grandeur is a small army of construction workers as part of a $70 million dollar renovation project.
The redone library is expected to reopen to the public this November.
Meanwhile, organizers are three-quarters of the way to their $20 million fundraising goal to support the effort.
A system-wide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Central Library’s dedication is set for this Saturday.
For a full rundown of events and information on how to contribute to the fundraising effort, go to www.slplfoundation.org.
Copyright KMOX Radio