The Town Library (Gone Forever)
This site was leveled by Katrina
The "Town Library" was the first established library along the Coast between Mobile and New Orleans. Isabel Bowman Finley established a lending library from her home on February 21, 1893. It was later that she would bring her books and leave them at the sundries store operated by “Aunt Carrie,” where more people could borrow them. This resulted in donating much of her own extensive library and some of the ladies in the town would also help out in keeping up with the books. It grew and grew and there was eventually so much interest that they organized it into a subscription library in 1905, when the first officers were elected. In 1907, the "Library Association" acquired the beach lot adjoining "Aunt Carrie's Sundries Store." And the following year, June 19, 1908, the Association was incorporated with Miss Finley as president of "The Library Association of the City of Pass Christian." That same year, the Association purchased the House and lot across Front Street from the Beach lot.
The Library was initially supported by donations and a few bequests and fund raising "Tag Days", when young girls would sell the tags for 25 cents to the Tourists. It was one of the last subscription libraries in the country. A Subscription sold for $1.50 a year, permitting two books at a time to be boorowed.
Many of the books are bequeaths or were otherwise donated by survivors of those who owned them.
The quaint cottage as built circa 1855, is located at 221 East Scenic Drive. It was purchased in 1908 and shortly after July 1910, the house was moved rearward approximately 30 feet. The original charter existed for 50 years. However, fifteen years had passed after its expiration before re-incorporation was instituted on February 6, 1973.
Many folks passed by the set-back cottage without knowing that it was still in operation --- until 1996, when the volunteer Librarian, Mrs Catherine James, died. This wonderful lady kept the doors open and provided reading literature to citizens in "The Pass" as well as many tourists and locals from other parts of the Coast. The Town Library preserved an atmosphere of hospitality famous to Mississippi, which was appreciated by visitors and newcomers alike. Most of the books on the shelves have been donated over the years by local citizenry. Mrs James had estimated that the three-room building housed about 20,000 books, excluding paperbacks --- on virtually every topic imaginable. "Many books are first editions; some are even autographed by the authors."
Since its inception, Dempf - Knost family members were involved with the library, making sure that it continued to function. Claire Knost served as the "Association's" Secretary-Treasurer for many years.
The Public Library
In 1967, there was an attempt to get county, state and federal monies to support and expand the Town Library, but because of its status as a private concern, these discussions lead to the realization that a Public Library Board should be appointed. Even with the creation of a Public Library Board, discussions continued for the next few years, only to be interrupted by Camille. However, not until July 1971, with the dedication of land and the final clearance of "We Care" hurricane funds, was the Public Library a reality. Ground breaking ceremonies at the present Hiern Street location finally took place in 1972 and a formal dedication was made the following year. From its early beginnings, the "Friends of the Library" have been a driving force in keeping the Public Library maintain a posture for good reading and research for the school children and the citizens of the Pass. Donations of books is an on-going need.