The Ida Public Library in Belvidere, Illinois, was named in memory of Ida Fuller Hovey. Ida was born on July 6, 1859 in Belvidere from a prominent family in town. She married Theron Adelbert Hovey in Belvidere in 1878 and was involved in the community where she joined the Belvidere Ladies Library Society. In 1883, Ida become sick with consumption (called tuberculosis today) and died from the disease. At the turn of the 20th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in the United States.
In 1883, Ida’s father, General Allen Fuller, gave the city of Belvidere $5,000 to establish a public library in her memory. Ida Public Library was situated on the second floor of City Hall (which is now the fire station) on South State Street. This kind of library location was not unusual for many towns before industrialist Andrew Carnegie began funding libraries. Carnegie funds were made available if sponsors provided a suitable location and a means of continuous support. Carnegie support was sought and provided in the amount of $17,500. Ground was broken in 1912.
According to the Ida Public Library website, on February 12, 1913, hundreds of Belvidere residents flocked to a brand-new, brick library building on the corner of State and Madison Streets for the building’s dedication ceremony and has since served the community from that location. Carnegie Libraries were often made of stone and brick—not always easy to remodel and expand. Some Carnegie libraries have been raised, some have been repurposed, and some communities have expanded their Carnegie Libraries in creative ways. The Ida Public Library remains a wonderful example of Carnegie library architecture even after library expansion in 1987.
Photo and background from the Ida Public Library. Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of new books Papa Bear and the Chicago Bears’ Winning Ways (middle grades) by Patrick McCaskey and Baseball’s Winning Ways (young adult) by J. D. Thorne.