‘Gem Of A Building’ Seeks New Use In Muncie


The library closed in 1999, after nearly 70 years of offering story times, summer reading programs and books to generations of south Muncie residents. Since then, local officials have considered several possible uses for the site, mainly as offices for one city department or another, but none of those plans have moved ahead, for some of the same reasons the library system opted not to continue to use the aging building.

The building remains a recognizable, prominent local landmark, however, and one that city officials have gotten on the National Register of Historic Places, worked on restoring and fully intend to maintain, even empty, until a new use can be found.

Built in 1930 with $2,500 given to the city as a bequest from local philanthropist Grace Kaiser Maring, the Georgian Revival building was Muncie’s first branch library. (The downtown Carnegie Library, which opened in 1902, was the city’s first designated library building, according to the MPL website, and for many years was the main library.)

According to an account for the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, Maring’s heirs and the library trustees agreed on Heekin Park as the library’s location, in proximity to several major streets and both Garfield Elementary School (now closed) and the original Wilson Middle School (where the Maring-Hunt Library is now housed).

Having the library at that location fit well with its use at the time, said Norma Jean Lasley, who is the official Delaware County historian – and incidentally, a retired Muncie librarian. The Maring branch opened near the start of the Great Depression, when people needed community buildings and children needed free access to books, Lasley noted: “It did fulfill a real purpose for that neighborhood.”

Heekin Park, including the library, served as “a wonderful focus of community activity” for a working-class neighborhood, she told The Star Press. The library’s features included a fireplace and a big window overlooking the wooded park behind it.

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Posted by on Apr 1st, 2013 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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