One Hundred Years of Progress: 1890 - 1990
Dwight Foster Public Library
Fort Atkinson Wisconsin
The following is a history of the Dwight Foster Public Library written by local resident Bill Starke in honor of the library's centennial.
Part 2: 1929 to 1970
Mary Worcester Donates Children's Wing
On January 27, 1929, a special meeting was called to announce that the daughter of Mr. Henry E. and Mrs. Celeste A. Foster Southwell, Mrs. Mary Worcester, was donating $25,000 to be used as a children's wing with its own entrance so that they would not disturb those doing research. Her only stipulation was that the architect's plans were to be submitted to her first and the new wing was to be called the Celeste A. Foster Southwell Memorial Wing in honor of her mother. Her generous offer was accepted by the board.
The new children's wing was dedicated January 28, 1931, with an appropriate ceremony. Unfortunately, Mrs. Worcester was ill and unable to attend but she was represented by cousin, Mrs. Ted Royce. Mr. Royce presented a portrait of Celeste Foster Southwell to the library. Mr. Royce was then a member of the library board and was believed to have been influential in getting Mrs. Worcester to donate the money. The total value of the library was then estimated at $77,000.
The records show nothing further in the way of building or any unusual event until July 8, 1940, when the library celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. At that time, the staff consisted of Miss Irene Varney (later Mrs. Irene Metke), Miss Miriam Engan, Mrs. Jack Smith and Juanita Schreiner. The guests of honor at this event were Miss Sue Nichols, Mrs. Winifred Davis and Mrs. F.G. Short, all former librarians.
Letters in the library scrapbook show that on October 19, 1944, Mr. C.H. Worcester presented a portrait of his wife Mary to the library.
Celeste A. Foster Southwell Dedication and portrait
Library Damaged by Fire
The library was damaged by fire on January 22, 1945. The fire started in the kitchen and damaged some 23,000 volumes by smoke and 501 books which had been in the kitchen were destroyed. Six truckloads of debris were removed. The library was temporarily closed and the circulation library was moved to the former wartime Ration Office in the Municipal Building. The library remained closed until June 16, 1945. During this time, the kitchen and a closet were combined into a kitchen-storeroom.
Over the years, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the library was attorney Charles B. Rogers, who served on the board from 1931 to 1960 and was its president from 1932 to 1959. Also, his mother was one of the founders of the library back in 1890. In his honor, a portrait was commissioned by William and Mary Hoard and presented to the library on September 11, 1951, when Mr. Rogers was 80 years old.
The Museum Moves From The Library
The Dwight Foster Historical Museum was housed in the basement of the library beginning in 1934. It was first sponsored by the D.A.R., but supported by the city. In 1944, Mrs. Worcester gave $5,000 to the Historical Society to be used to purchase a home for the museum. The Historical Society purchased the George S. May home on East Milwaukee with the plan to convert it into a museum but nothing was done and the museum remained in the library.
However, in 1957, William D. Hoard and his sister, Shirley Hoard Kerschensteiner, gave their parent's home, the Frank W. Hoard home, at Whitewater and Merchants Avenues, to the city to be used as a museum and it became the Hoard Museum. In 1968, Dwight Foster's 1841 house, the first frame house built in Fort Atkinson, was moved onto the Museum grounds.
Dwight Foster Family Great Benefactors
Fort Atkinson owes much to the Dwight Foster family. Not only were they the village's first settlers back in 1836 but Dwight's son-in-law, H.E. Southwell, his wife, Celeste Foster Southwell and their daughter, Mary Worcester, over the years gave $164,000 to the library, $275,000 to the hospital and $35,000 to the Historical Society. These were all pre-inflationary dollars when a dollar still had great value.
In 1936, the library first belonged to the now defunct Rock River Library district which consisted of thirteen libraries. Then in 1967, it joined the Capital District. The library scrapbook indicates that on April 17, 1967, the staff consisted of Mrs. Oscar Metke, head librarian, Mrs. Cyrus Walker, children's librarian, Miss Juanita Schreiner, Mrs. Claude Haferman, Mrs. Sylvia Breister, Mrs. H.H. Southworth, Mrs. Genevieve Hotrum, Mary Brown, page, and Oscar Metke, custodian.
It was also noted that Miss Schreiner, who began working in the library in March, 1937, was stepping down as reference and gneral library assistant on April 25, 1969, after 32 years of devoted service.
Elmore Klement, who had been city manager since 1931 and had been an ex-officio member of the library board all those years, also retired in April 1969.
Continue: The library from 1970 to 1980
Back to: The library from 1890 to 1929