Hannibal Square Library
In 1936, Mrs. Mertie Graham Grover died from injuries she sustained when she was struck by a car while crossing a local street. Mrs. Grover was the wife of Rollins’ professor Dr. Edwin O. Grover, and upon her tragic death friends and family members were asked not to send flowers, so they donated money to create a lasting memorial for her. Mrs. Grover had once been a teacher, so her loved ones thought that a library would be an ideal memorial. Mrs. Grover had spent her early years teaching in the Negro schools, as she was dedicated to helping the Negro community advance academically. The final decision was to create the Hannibal Square Public Library. This facility would serve the people of Winter Park’s West Side . . . historically a black community.
The first step in meeting that goal was the purchase of 100 books and a metal cabinet to accommodate them. These items were housed first in the Colored Day Nursery and later in Hannibal Square's elementary school. So much interest was shown by the children that more books were purchased and placed in the cabinet.
In order to accomplish the larger goal of an actual library building, a group was formed to drive that vision. The group, led by Dr. Grover, came before the Winter Park City Commissioners and asked them to donate a suitable site for the library. The commissioners voted to designate city property (lots 8, 9, 10 and Block 44) for park purposes, and Lot 8 was designated as a site for the proposed library. After the City Commission presented a plot of land for a building, a building fund was started. Gifts of money were received, and a non-profit organization was started. It was called Hannibal Square Associates.
The Hannibal Square Associates described their goal as follows:
The general nature of the object of this corporation shall be: to establish, own and operate a public library; to own and develop a recreation center and any other enterprise for the social and civic betterment of the Negro population of Winter Park, Florida; and to promote and encourage education and the attendance of the Negro population of the City of Winter Park at institutions of higher learning; to cultivate the artistic, scientific and literary tastes and aspirations of the Negro population of the City of Winter Park.
The need for land had been met and sufficient money had been raised. All that was left to do was to acquire the services of a builder. A builder did step forward, a Mr. Goodfellow. He did the work for cost. In 1937, the little concrete building was completed. Total cost: $1,100. In that small building the work of the library was carried on for both children and adults.
Hannibal Square Associates, Inc. was the entity that held the property, built the library building, and operated Hannibal Square Public Library.
The library opened on July 1, 1937 and was officially named: The Hannibal Square Public Library-Mertie Graham Grover Memorial. Upon its opening it boasted 1,400 books. An open house was held to introduce the community to their new facility.
In its early days, the library also served the citizens of the West Side by providing space for community groups and clubs to meet. The Boy Scouts, Benevolent Society, Sewing Society, Colored Women’s Club (later the Ideal Woman’s Club) all initially held their meetings at the Hannibal Square Public Library.
Throughout the history of the library, six women held the position of Librarian. In 1937, Miss Callie Colston was appointed as the first Librarian. She was a college graduate and had previously been a teacher. Her wages: $12.50 per month! The hours of operation were: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 4:00 - 6:00pm and from 7:00 - 9:00pm. In 1942, her salary was raised to $20.00 a month. She was succeeded by Mrs. Tabitha Ray in 1943. Mrs. Mildred Wilkerson, Mrs. Gwendolyn Johnson, Miss Mildred Carter, and Miss Beverly Dixon all served in this capacity throughout the life span of the Library.
In 1955 a children's room was added. It was made possible through contributions of time, labor and money.
In January of 1968, representatives from the Hannibal Square Associates and the Winter Park Public Library Association met to discuss consolidating the two libraries in the interest of more efficient and economic operation. On March 30, 1968, there was a meeting to discuss the dissolution of Hannibal Square Associates and to distribute their assets to the Winter Park Library Association. The Hannibal Square Library would then become a branch of the Winter Park Public Library. A resolution to dissolve the Corporation was introduced, voted on, and passed unanimously by the board of trustees. A petition for the dissolution of Hannibal Square Associates was filed in the Circuit Court of Orange County and the final order for the dissolution of Hannibal Square Associates came on June 9, 1968.
During the construction of the Winter Park Community Center, the small concrete building that served as the Hannibal Square Library was moved to the a spot behind the Community Center.
The Hannibal Square Library served as a branch of the WPPL until 1979 when it finally closed. It was then that the Winter Park Public Library opened their new building at 460 East New England Avenue.