know that Clark Lane had a direct hand in some aspects of the librarys
construction. For example, in 1886 the library installed a steam heating
system to take the place of the heating and ventilating system that
had been personally planned and engineered by Mr. Lane 20 years before.
Could Clark Lane have been the architect? It seems unlikely. Indeed
some architectural historians feel that the library and home must
be the work of noted architects based in a major city. Still Clark
Lane amazed his contemporaries by finding time for undertakings seemingly
foreign to a busy industrialist. In the spring of 1865 he helped clear
23 acres of land. He wrote in his diaries that he planted with his
own hands an orchard of 2,200 trees.
librarys dedication Clark Lane stated, In and about the
building, you can see, I have used nothing but the best of materials
in order to secure permanence and durability. His words, we
realize 130 years later, were prophetic. Lanes Free Library,
renamed Lane Public Library in 1913, has withstood the ravages of
flood and fire.
significant addition to the Lane Free Library occurred in 1892 when
a stack room, built to hold shelves of books, was added to the rear.
This addition may not have been constructed to the high standards
of the 1866 octagon room. During March 1913 the Great Miami River
Flood brought devastation to Hamilton and throughout the river valley.
Over 500 Hamilton homes were washed away and 10,000 were homeless.
The death toll in Hamilton reached 200. The Hamilton Evening Journal
of 11 April 1913 reported that, The most severe loss sustained
by the city of Hamilton in any one building was by the Lane Free Library
where practically every book is gone, a part of the building washed
away and all the valuable records destroyed. The stack room
and north wing would fall to the rivers force. It is believed
that what was then described as the north wing was the appendage to
the octagon room that was designed to accommodate a pump, wash stand
and coat and hat fixtures. The south side housed writing tables along
with pens, ink and paper.
of the flood of a century, Lane Free Library reopened for business
and quickly entertained expansion plans. A true wing was contemplated
in November 1915 when architect George Barkman was asked to proceed
at once with plans for the extension and improvement of the library.
This extension, completed in 1916, was the north wing which contained
a reading room and an auditorium.
A few years
later a devastating fire followed. On 11 February 1919 an overheated
boiler caused a fire that began in the basement furnace room and quickly
burned upward into the octagon room which was then both the librarys
lobby and main reading room. Fortunately the first newspaper accounts
that appeared in Hamiltons Daily Republican were exaggerated.
The front page banner headline that day read LANE FREE LIBRARY
DESTROYED. At first it was believed that practically all the
library books were either burned or ruined by smoke and water. The
librarys annual report for the year noted, however, that only
2,048 of 14,675 volumes were destroyed in the fire. The library would
not be open for business again until 1 July 1919. Fortunately the
librarys outer walls were not damaged to any appreciable extent.
Clark Lane had indeed built for durability and permanence. However,
architectural drawings indicate that the cupola was a casualty of
either the fire or of construction undertaken in the early 1920s.
fire was not the first documented conflagration at the library. On
26 July 1906 a bolt of lightning struck the transformer at Third and
Heaton Streets and was believed to have been carried into the octagon
rooms dome by electrical wiring. Damage was limited even though
firemen noted that the slate roof of the building was slippery during
a drizzling rain and was difficult to ascend. Not a single volume
was lost to fire or water damage even though it became necessary to
cut holes into the floor to allow rising water to exit. It was said
that the water falling beneath the cupola resembled a miniature
Niagara Falls. In a Journal-News column at the time of Hamiltons
bicentennial, local genealogist Michael Cupp related that a lightning
strike in 1907 caused service to be suspended for four months.
after World War I saw increased demand for library space and services
and architect George Barkman was commissioned again to design a new
wing, the south wing, which contained 1,700 square feet on each of
two floors. A notable feature of this wing, completed in 1921, is
the Rookwood fireplace which is flanked by built-in wooden benches.
Interior architectural details and furnishings of both wings were
greatly influenced by the Arts and Crafts or Mission
styles. Throughout the years the south wings main floor has
housed childrens collections and provided space for youth programs
and activities. For two decades, until the space was needed for other
purposes, a Little Theater was located in this area..