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Carnegie Library

This pretty little lass with the hair bow would eventually live a long life, passing away at 87 in 1988. She was Francesca S. Perry, shown here in 1903. She’s waving in front the downtown public library that was under construction–the new Main Library, built becasuse of  a generous donation from Andrew Carnegie. Ms. Perry resided in the River City for many — if not all — of her years. She passed away after an extended illness.

The old four-columned library building still stands, beautifully renovated today as law offices. The impressive structure is situated at the northeast corner of Ocean and Adams streets. It was designed by the well-known Jax architect Henry Klutho. By a vote of only 640 to 625, local voters approved the building’s construction by accepting funds from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Perhaps the world’s richest man, the former steel maker helped finance over 2,800 libraries in America. The old Carnegie Library served as the city’s main library until 1965, when operations moved into a new building cattycorner from the old one. Today, the Main Library is located on Hemming Plaza.

An old story tells how transients used to lie on the grass around the Carnegie building during the early 1900s. Tired of these visitors, a library manager is said to have driven stakes into the ground to prevent them from reclining.

Note the darker building to the left of the Carnegie building: That was the Central Fire Station, completed in 1901 after the Great Fire. A 1944 remodeling wiped out the original appearance, but the fire department continued to occupy the structure for around 40 more years. Today, the building houses a private residence that boasts a picture perfect interior.

Where little Francesca posed is now the spot of the United Cigar Store Building, completed in 1926 during the Florida Land Boom. The well-known London Bridge Restaurant, along with other businesses, occupy the structure today. A cigar store once operated in the rooms of London Bridge, with a wooden Indian usually displayed prominently at its Ocean & Adams corner entrance.

~written by Glenn Emery

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