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