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Stop 6: The 1963 Hugh Embry Library (building 1963)

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AUDIO NARRATION*
Copyright © 2024
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The 1963 Hugh Embry Library

 

     Across the street is the library which possesses a winding journey of evolvement. Although you’ll see a plaque on the building, stating it opened in 1963, the institution was founded in 1904. A bright young man who was traveling to Dade City with his family from Ohio in 1903, caught a momentous seasonal cold. His mother intervened to keep him in Florida for a few weeks rather than return on an arduous trip in the cold weather. 

 

     Well, this industrious young man named Hugh Embry, a voracious reader, sought reading to occupy his time. He gathered books from new friends and put out the word for reading material. Many folks donated books which he enjoyed but almost immediately, he saw and cultivated a huge need for a local library.

 

A fledgling intellectual, he developed a club known as the Shakespeare Club to house the books for a rudimentary lending system. The books were literally moved all over town. They had no library building so the Woman’s Club housed some shelves in their facility and then they were stashed on the second floor of the Massey building which you recently learned of on the tour. By 1940, the collection had outgrown the Massey building, and volunteers of the woman’s club set out to earn money by selling lunches outside the courthouse building in a time when restaurants were pretty much non-existent. 

 

    Unfortunately, the bright young man, Hugh Embry, with the innovative idea, passed away in 1907 from consumption (tuberculosis) which was a deadly disease of the early twentieth century. (A tuberculosis sanitorium was erected in nearby Trilby as isolation was part of the recommended treatment of the day). Along the way, the library was named for its philosophical founder after he succumbed from tuberculosis in 1907. (A sanitorium was erected in nearby Trilby to assure the recommended treatment, isolation, for this deadly disease of the twentieth century.)

 

     The library’s endeavor caught on as Mayor Fred Touchton voted for the library to receive ten dollars a month to buy children’s classics and the county also contributed some funds. With the New Deal again, WPA funds provided for the books to be moved once again. The collection was then moved to the WPA city hall building you just heard about. It was reported that the books were thrown onto a truck from the Massey building and trucked across the street to the city building and dumped on the floor in the designated room.

 

   Finally with Sallie Embry as President of the Friends of the Library, and then Dade City Mayor John Burks, the momentum was going. The mayor announced he would match the funds. The building on Meridian has served the community since 1963, with only a few hiccups; a more modern renovation in 2021 will bring a reopening scheduled for reopening in 2023.

 

     We are particularly proud of the current Regional Branch Library Manager, Angelo Liranzo, who spearheaded the digitization of the annals of The Dade City Banner newspaper chronicles which have preserved so much of the local history and particularly genealogy. You can search the collection online at the University of Florida’s digital library. You’ll find all kinds of information about the entire area. Just search for UF and digital library and it will pop right up.

  • 1903

    Young newcomer, Hugh Embry moved with his family to Dade City. In the travels, he contracted a cold which evolved to confining illness. Hugh coordinated a local lending system of books and reading material which he coined The Shakespeare Club.

  • 1904

    The library was founded in 1904.

  • 1907

    Hugh Embry passed away from tuberculosis at age 27, and the institution was named “The Hugh Embry Memorial Library.” The Dade City Woman’s Club took charge of the books with Hugh’s mother, Minerva Caroline “Sallie” Cooper Embry and Emily G. Clark appointed to care for collection which was moved to the Woman’s club building then at Pasco Avenue & 7th; (library was opened Saturday afternoons and free to club members and families, while others paid a dime a month). Many will recognize this second site of the Woman’s Club as the site of the subsequent Pasco Theatre (now South State Bank) Stop 44.

  • 1927

    George Massey offered free use of a room on the second floor of the Massey Building to house the burgeoning library collection.

  • 1927

    Opening day was July 30th for the Hugh Embry Free Public Library with 440 borrowers.

  • 1930

    The library was incorporated as the official municipal library of Dade City (corporation dissolved in 1954).

  • 1933

    first full-time Librarian: May E. Stockbridge.

  • 1940

    Collection had outgrown Massey building space. Under Works Progress Administration (WPA of New Deal), books were moved to city hall (movers dumped books from second floor of Massey building into a truck dumped books through window onto floor of Massey building).

  • 1943

    Oil portrait of Hugh Embry, founder of the library now known as Hugh Embry Library, and painted by his nephew, Lloyd Bowers Embry was presented to Mrs. Waldo Richardson, President of the Library Association at a ceremony at the library.

  • 1952

    Dade City Commission donated property for a library across from the city hall on Meridian (July 12, 1952, Dade City took financial responsible for Hugh Embry Library).

  • 1953

    Passing of Mae E. Stockbridge, first librarian (serving 20 years). Obituary reads: Through her work as librarian, she was widely known throughout the country, and in years past had given valuable assistance to other libraries in the county including Saint Leo and New Port Richey. She promoted the use of reference books of Dade City's free library among the city's schools, and prior to consolidated schools, cooperated with teachers of rural schools in providing library privileges for their pupils.

  • 1962

    With Sallie Embry as president, the Friends of the Library began fundraising for a building ($12,000 raised).

  • 1962

    Mayor John Burks proposed 25,000 if matching funds could be raised.

  • 1963

    Library building was constructed and moved into building on November 13th.

  • 1981

    Became branch of Pasco County Library system.

  • 2012

    Digitization of “Dade City Banner,” local newspaper archives, from 1914 to 1971 spearheaded by Regional Library Manager, Angelo Liranzo.

  • 2020-2023

    Renovation of Hugh Embry Library.

  • 2023

    May 30, 2023: Reopening of newly renovated Hugh Embry Library.

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