Historical banners on Liberty Avenue
In the early 1900s, before Vermilion had a public library, townspeople could pay to belong to a “subscription” library. Membership cost $1 a year and a few dozen books were housed on shelves in various stores. In 1908, the books were available at the Guy Davis dry goods store on the northwest corner of Grand and Liberty streets (currently site of Friendship Park). Lending hours were one afternoon a week and Saturday evenings. (Read the entire history of the library here.)
Trustees who served in 1935 funded and supervised construction of the new library building on Grand Street. Front row, left to right, Mamie Thompson, Bessie Roscoe, Mary Shaw. Back row, Jennie Cole, Mary Black and Addie Rust
The interior of the public library building on Grand Street in 1936. Furniture for the new building was built to specifications and at low cost at the Ohio State Reformatory.
George Ritter and his wife Mary returned to Vermilion in 1958 to help lay the cornerstone for the new building. They were assisted by their nephews. A sealed box was placed behind the cornerstone. In it is a letter from Ritter with instructions that it not be opened for 100 years. In 2058, residents may open the letter for a final message from the library’s great benefactor.
George Ritter was born in 1886 and after graduating from Vermilion High School and Cleveland Law School, he earned his fortune as an attorney in Toledo. Read more about his life here.
The brick building on Grand Street that once housed Vermilion’s library then served as its police station. It is now The Old Vermilion Jailhouse Bed and Breakfast. Notice the full-sized baby buggy out front and a child’s toy buggy beside it. The globe on the lamppost has the word “Library” painted on it.
George Ritter donated $150,000 in cash plus enough to purchase an additional 10 feet of land and $50,000 to purchase marble for the front and for six pillars. He modelled the new building on the Joseph Swift mansion south of town. He had pink marble brought up from Georgia, thinking that white marble might fade.
In 2002, trustees purchased a former car dealership building just east of the library with an eye toward future expansion. It was demolished in December 2008 and construction of a new addition, including a second floor and partial basement, got underway in March 2009. The project was completed and celebrated with a grand opening ceremony in March 2010. Left to right are Pat Bennett and Janet Springer, both of whom worked at Ritter for more than 30 years; Janet Ford, director for 35 years; and Patty Kishman.