The Library

History of The Dr. Eugene Clark Library of Lockhart

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 1899 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; 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 deathbed.  She entrusted the care of her young son to her dearest friend, Miss H.M. Young.  Miss Young raised the boy as if she was 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 came to Lockhart in 1883 after completing his residency.

Dr. Clark entered practice with a local physician, Dr. Lancaster, who soon abandoned his practice, leaving the 21 year old Clark to continue 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 specialty—ear, nose and throat. While practicing in San Antonio, Dr. Clark became very ill.  He came through Lockhart to see his old friends on his way to New York for surgery. After his condition was pronounced incurable, and he left New York and returned 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 cultural 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. Svarnoff 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 pediment pavilions form the arms of the cross.  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, that supports the central dome.

The library architecture is a source of curiosity and inspires visits by amateur and professional architects as well as 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.

Published on June 24, 2010 at 5:03 pm  Comments Off on The Library  
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