The interpretive sign differs from a traditional historical marker in that it provides more information and features photographs of the library and founder Sarah Freeman Clarke, said David Freedman, chairman of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. It lets passersby on Church Street see old photos and drawings of the library and tells of the story about how Clarke started a library out of her home in 1882 and later merged with the Marietta Library Association and sought donations to build a permanent building.
“It’s all about preserving our heritage,” Freedman said before a six-minute ceremony unveiling the plaque. “How many places can you go to that have a building built in 1893, and, here it is, 119 years later, and it’s still being used to serve the community?”
The Clarke Library building, which cost $2,000 to build, is still owned by the city of Marietta, which leases it to K. Mike Whittle Unique Floral Designs. Freedman said the city paid $1,000 to put in the historic sign.
The sign also notes that Clarke, who lived in Boston and summered in Marietta, sought donations for the library from New England friends, including writer and physician Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., father of the Supreme Court justice. It gives history of
additions to the originally octagonal building, which added a south wing in 1927, a rear addition in 1938 and a south wing in 1945.
Mayor Steve Tumlin recalled his mother dropping him off at the library, located just north of the Square at 156 Church St., as a child in the late 1950s, before it moved to the former Marietta Post Office (now the Cobb/Marietta Museum of Art) when the Cobb and Marietta libraries merged. He participated in summer reading programs there.
“It’s a thrill,” Tumlin said of the new sign. “I like how Ms. Clarke, somebody from Boston, Mass., took an interest in it. It was good community people that saw a need for it and got it started.
The sign was designed by Therese McKee Huffman of Signature Design in Atlanta. Her previous credits include signs for the Lovett School in Vinings, Laura Spelman Hall at Spelman College in Atlanta, Radium Springs Garden in Albany, the State Botanical Garden in Athens and a historical downtown signage program in Tifton.
Tumlin said the interpretive sign is more helpful than the typical historical marker.
“You’re able to tell that story and just how people did it,” he said. “The government didn’t up and do it in those days, it took community people.”
Others in attendance included Councilmen Philip Goldstein and Anthony Coleman and City Manager Bill Bruton.
Carolyn Crawford, director of the Georgia Room, the current Central Library’s historical and genealogical collection, said it was nice to look back on the library’s history.
“She planted a seed that’s still growing,” Crawford said. “We’ve grown from this to 17 branches. I think it’s wonderful anytime somebody does something for a community that lasts.”