• Free Library Association, Page 2

    The New Library Building

    The new library building, designed in the Craftsman style, was completed by the end of 1901, in time for an event in December.

    Although several architectural researchers have attributed the building design to architect Arthur B. Heaton, based on a 1900 rendering and plan at the Library of Congress, his proposed rendering is in the Victorian style. Some suggest the possibility that this was an early plan that might have been revised later by Heaton. But in the fall of 1900, a floor plan, elevation and a rendering of the exterior by architect Waddy D. Wood were published in the September 22, 1900 issue of The American Architect and Building News, with the title “Public Library and Fire-Engine House, Chevy Chase, Md.”

    As the images reproduced below show, they appear to be the final plans for the new library. Heaton and Wood may have collaborated on the final design, since they were working together on All Saints Church on Chevy Chase Circle in this same period. Ground was broken for the church in June 1901 and according to All Saints Church history, the first service was held on December that year.  Thus, both architects were working together in Chevy Chase and both the church and the new library were completed by December 1901.

    • Floor plan and elevations of the Chevy Chase Library by W. D. Wood, published by The American Architect and Building News, September 22, 1900, p. 98.
    • Rendering of the Chevy Chase Library by W. D. Wood, published by The American Architect and Building News, September 22, 1900, p. 98.


    On December 1, 1901, Miss Janet Richards, former President of the Chevy Chase Free Library Association, gave a lecture about Yellowstone Park at the new library.  The Washington Post commented on the library building in its notice of the event:


    "…The prospect is that the seating capacity of the pretty little building will be severely tested by the friends of the popular institution, who take this means of helping the library and at the same time enjoying an hour’s travel through nature’s great wonderland under the guidance of this well-known lecturer." - The Washington Post, December 1, 1901, p.29.

    A porch on the southern side of the building can be seen in the 1903 photograph from The Times, the earliest photograph of the Library in the CCHS collection.


    The Washington Times, May 31, 1903, p1 of the Third Section, Detail.


    By 1903, both the Newlands sisters and their friend were married:  Alonsita White married Harold Walker in 1902 and moved to Mexico City; and both of the Newslands sisters married in 1903.  Edith married Charles H. L. Johnston and moved to Massachusetts.  A few months later, Janet married Charles’ brother, Dr. William B. Johnston, and began her married life in Washington, DC.  Their early interest in support of the Free Library Association was mostly likely eclipsed by these events, and it appears that they no longer played an active role in the organization.

    The Country Fair and the Masquerade Party

    The Chevy Chase Free Library Association continued to hold fundraising events to benefit the new library.  Summer fundraising events, such as the “Country Fair” announced in this display advertisement at the end of June in 1903, expanded on the “summer fetes” held in the 1890s.


    The Washington Times, June 29, 1903, p5.


    Local residents were in charge of various booths, and these included members of the Chevy Chase Reading Club -- Mrs. Verrill and Mrs. Robertson.  Both would participate, along with Mr. Bowen, in the Literary Club, as well.


    Evening Star clipping
    “Success of Country Fair,” The Evening Star, July 3, 1903, p7.


    In a similar article about the Country Fair, the Washington Times added a bit of information about the Library itself:

    "The library was opened for inspection and many of the visitors looked through it. The usual fortune teller was present and gathered in much of the coin of the realm for the benefit of the library." - The Washington Times, July 3, 1903, p7.

    Following almost word-for-word what must have been a widely circulated press release written by a member of the Chevy Chase Free Library Association, the Washington Post also noted the presence of the fortune teller.  But the Post went on to report that a group of young women “proved magnets for the ice cream and cake tables and did a thriving business throughout the evening.”  This same article closed with information about the officers of the Free Library Association:

    "The fair was given under the auspices of the Chevy Chase Free Library.  This is located in a pretty building, erected three years ago, and contains almost 500 volumes, as well as a reading-room with all the magazines and periodicals.  The president of the library is Mr. C. H. Verrill; vice president, G. W. Swartzell; secretary and treasurer, Mr. J. C. Bowen, and librarian, Mr. J. H. Pickell." - The Washington Post, July 3, 1903, p11.

    By 1903, the officers were all men, three of whom would go on to participate in the Literary Club.  Both men and women participated in fundraising benefits for the Library, such as the one held at the home of Eugene and Gertrude Stevens in 1906.  Karl E. Guthe, who lived at 11 East Lenox Street with his wife Belle Ware Guthe, mentioned the masquerade party and other Library Association events in his diary:

    "During the winter we became members of the Chevy Chase Library Association, and had a pretty masked ball at the Stevens and a musical performance (The Grasshopper on the Sweet Potatoe Vine) at the Library, also a dance in connection with it." - Excerpts from Karl E. Guthe's Journal, CCHS 2009.2093.08.

    The masquerade party was organized by a committee that included Mr. Stevens, Mrs. Charles H. Verrill, Mrs. Suzanne Oldberg, Mr. J. Chester Bowen, and Mrs. Clarence E. Dawson.  Two hundred invitations were sent by mail and a Washington Post article reports that nearly that many attended the February event. Costumes were required and guests remained “incognito” throughout the evening.  They enjoyed dancing from 10 to midnight, when “light refreshments” were served, and then everyone participated in voting for the best costumes.

    "Mrs. C. R. Richards [Fanny], who, disguised as an Egyptian mummy, maintained a mummy-like demeanor quite in keeping with her funereal aspect, was awarded one prize, a silver nut-dish; while Mr. George H. Chandlee, made up as Happy Hooligan, received the other, a handsome imported stein." - The Washington Post, February 11, 1906, p5.

    The host, Eugene Stevens, wore a costume of a “Turkish dancing girl,” while the hostess, Gertrude Stevens, was “the goddess of liberty.”  The news article does not mention how much money was raised for the library, but the neighborly spirit seemed high.

    The Chevy Chase Association

    Just one month later, in March 1906, the Chevy Chase Free Library Association merged with the Chevy Chase Citizens Association; the new name of the organization was the Chevy Chase Association.  Many of the Chevy Chase residents who attended the masquerade party would gather together to form the Literary Club of the Chevy Chase Association the following year.  Their first meeting was on January 20, 1907, once again at the home of Eugene and Gertrude Stevens.  They continue to meet in each others homes until at least 1914.

    The new Chevy Chase Free Library, as the first truly public building in Chevy Chase, was a key community resource for the early residents.  It provided books and magazines for the Chevy Chase Reading Class and the Literary Club.  It was a community center big enough to host large events – for readings, plays, dancing and other activities.  And it would go on to become the center of municipal government.  Its presence in Chevy Chase was an additional amenity for this new suburb.

    Read about the Chevy Chase Reading Class, which began in 1899.

    Read about the Literary Club, 1907 – 1914.



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