La Feria News

The Bailey H. Dunlap Memorial Library

CentennialSeal

The following story is a chapter from a manuscript entitled The Bicentennial History of La Feria, Texas written by Eddie Gathings McNail in 1975. Throughout the coming year we’ll be reprinting sections of her research into the history of La Feria as the city celebrates its 100 year anniversary.

Bailey H. Dunlap’s widow Josephine cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the B.H. Dunlap Memorial Library in June of 1963. Photo: LFN Archives/Sterling Prince.

Bailey H. Dunlap’s widow Josephine cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the B.H. Dunlap Memorial Library in June of 1963. Photo: LFN Archives/Sterling Prince.

The cultural and educational center of any town is the municipal library which can be of service to all the citizens. The idea of a library in La Feria originated at a meeting of The Sorosis Club in September, 1954. Mrs. Dan Robinson, Civic Chairman of the Sorosis Club, promised to secure the assistance of the other clubs in La Feria.

A central committee was formed with representatives from Sorosis, Cultura, Twentieth Century, home Demonstration, Child Study and Garden Clubs, American Legion Auxiliary, Zeta Rho Chapter and XI Beta Lambda Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi. These ladies proceeded to elect Mrs. Robinson as chairman for 1954 and later re-elected her for the next three years.

In 1958, Mrs. A.G. Martin III became chairman, and Mrs. Robinson was voted “a permanent member of the library board”.

Mr. J.C. Dunn provided the building for the location of the first library on West Oleander Street. The McAllen, Mercedes and Harlingen libraries donated hundreds of books while the Child Study Club gave a set of encyclopedias.

The library was opened for the first time on Staurday, June 4, 1955, with the hours being from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. By January, 1956 there were some 1,550 books catalogued and placed on the shelves. It was decided to open the library on Wednesday afternoons at the same hours.

A clipping from the June 6, 1963 issue of La Feria News shows La Feria youngsters gathered at the then new library for the beginning of the summer reading program. Photo: LFN Archives/Sterling Prince.

A clipping from the June 6, 1963 issue of La Feria News shows La Feria youngsters gathered at the then new library for the beginning of the summer reading program. Photo: LFN Archives/Sterling Prince.

Mrs. Virginia Harnell became the first certified librarian in June, 1957, at a small salary. Assistance has been received from Cameron County in the amount of $25 a month since January 1958.
When Mrs. Hartnell retired to teach in the public schools, Mrs. John W. Marshall became the librarian in October, 1960.

The library moved to the Professional Building on Main Street January, 1957, through the courtesy of Mr. Nat M. Johnson. This arrangement lasted until 1961 when it was agreed that Mr. Johnson should be paid $10 on the utilities which the City of La Feria assumed.

With the library growing and expanding so rapidly, the decision was made to move from an inside room to a larger one, and by 1959 the Library Board was planning on a permanent building.
After Bailey H. Dunlap’s death, Mrs. B.H. Dunlap, Sr. announced that she and her family would build the Bailey H. Dunlap Memorial Library at a cost of $25,000 if the town would raise $5,000 for the purchase of new books, furnishings and would be responsible for the maintenance of said library. Construction of the building began in 1963 after the money was raised. The architect was David Ashcraft of McAllen and the contractor, Eddleblute Construction Company. The building was constructed on a public park on Main Street. The La Feria Garden Club has charge of the financing and landscaping. Many flowering trees, palms and shrubs furnish an appropriate setting for the building.

W.J. Burris of McAllen, a Past Grand Master of Masons in Texas, leveled the cornerstone of the Bailey H. Dunlap Memorial Library with Masonic honors on Friday, July 12, 1963 at 4:00 p.m. There was an Open House in the library immediately following the leveling. An oil painting of Mr. Dunlap is on the south wall of the reading room in view of those who enter the building.
The doors of the library opened on June 1, 1963. During the last ten years the library has grown in patrons and friends of the Library, and in books and magazines.

In 1964, the Bailey H. Dunlap Memorial Library received the Dorothy Canfield Fisher award of $1,000 for the outstanding library in the State of Texas in a community of less than 25,000 population.

The first summer reading program was started with twenty three children receiving certificates for reading the required eight books in 1966. Over the years, more and more children have been attracted to this program. In 1972, there were 1,314 readers.

A story hour was started by Mrs. Grant Wheaton one day a week druing the summer for a period of four years. Since that time volunteers from various cubs have carried on this program.
Mrs. Brooks Marshall remains as librarian with able assistants being Mrs. John Warburton, Miss Mabel Clapp, Mrs. Rhoda Sheetz, Mrs. Edward Wallace, Mrs. C.J. Hoverson and Mrs. William Creighton. Miss Norma Zamora is connected with the Neighborhood Youth Corps, under the Department of Labor. She works nine hours a week in the fall, winter and spring and twenty hours a week in the summer.

There are approximately 10,800 volumes in the library at the present time. Approximately 1,050 are memorial books.

The entrance to the Bailey H. Dunlap Mermorial Library as it looks today with its second floor addition. Photo: LFN Archives/Bill Keltner.

The entrance to the Bailey H. Dunlap Mermorial Library as it looks today with its second floor addition. Photo: LFN Archives/Bill Keltner.

The Friends of the Library is an organization which is very active and raises some $1,000 every year in donations of varying amounts. Mrs. John C. Jones, Jr. was the chairman for 1973-74 while Mrs. W.R. Swope is the chairman for 1974-75.

Different organizations or individuals provide displays for the display case every month.

The annual Sorosis Art Show is held prior to Easter each year. The exhibits are unusual and outstanding. A 3M CopyRite copier was a memorial given by friends of Mrs. C.E. Vail. Other memorials have been filing cabinets, encyclopedias, library chairs and a five-drawer card catalogue.

For nine years on project has been selling note paper with a sketch of the library. This has supplemented the finances.

Thus, through the generosity of the Dunlap family and the foresight and industriousness of many citizens, the Bailey H. Dunlap Memorial Library stands as a great monument of achievement in La Feria.

In the summer travelogues of many countries and the United States have been given at the library in teh evenings in the Texas Room. The attendance has been above expectation and the work rewarding.

Editor’s Note: Since Eddie Gathings McNail first wrote about The B.H. Dunlap Memorial Library in 1975, the library has grown exponentially.

The City of La Feria began an expansion project in 2013 constructing a second-floor Multi-Media Meeting room adding almost 5,000 square feet on the south side of the building and will providing additional space for new computer stations, research capability, tutoring, and provide a community meeting room.

You can read more about the latest modern improvements to the library on our website.

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