Brightly colored balloons in shades of purple, blue, red and yellow decorated Newton Public Library Tuesday afternoon, helping to create a festive atmosphere for people attending the library’s 125th anniversary celebration.


Brightly colored balloons in shades of purple, blue, red and yellow decorated Newton Public Library Tuesday afternoon, helping to create a festive atmosphere for people attending the library’s 125th anniversary celebration.

“This looks like a wonderful gathering,” said Jan Hoberecht, looking around the meeting room where celebration-goers were gathered. “I’m glad to see a wonderful celebration.”
Hoberecht was on the library board for six years and is a retired Newton High School librarian.

In the meeting room, those attending dined on refreshments while two 2011 Kansas Notable Books authors, both of whom are local, greeted fans and well-wishers. Beverley Buller is the author of “A Prairie Peter Pan: The Story of Mary White,” and Lana Wirt Myers wrote “Prairie Rhythms: The Life and Poetry of May Williams Ward.” They each had their books on display.
Marianne Eichelberger, library director, said she was pleased with the turnout at the library’s 125th anniversary celebration.

“We had a lot of people, a broad section of the population here,” she said.
She said people came to talk and share memories about their experiences at the library, and they also seemed to enjoy going on a historical tour that highlighted the library and Newton’s past.

“We’ve heard a lot of good positives from people who’ve gone on it,” she said.
In addition to Buller’s and Myers’ books, also on display were photographs taken at the library.

In another part of town, historical bus tours were offered beginning at the Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives at 203 N. Main St. and ending at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St.

The historical museum, also called Carnegie Library, actually was the second free library in Newton. It was built in 1904; Andrew Carnegie gave $16,000 to have the building constructed, said tour guide Barth Hague, Newton Public Library board trustee and chairman of the Newton/North Newton Historic Preservation Commission.

Hague told tour-goers about a variety of places and events in Newton in its early days. He said the first free public library was in the Randall Building at 501 N. Main St. He also said Carrie Nation and the women’s temperance movement brought the first library to Newton.
The Newton Free Library was in the Randall Building from 1899 until moving into the Carnegie Library. The original Randall Building was replaced in 1912 after it was destroyed by fire.

Hague also talked about the fire on Aug. 4, 1914, that destroyed much of the east side of the 500 block of Main Street. This included the City Hotel, Herold Printing, McManus Department Store, First National Bank and the Star Theater.

“It was a devastating loss for the city,” Hague said.

The fire started, Hague told the small group in the tour bus, in Newton Auditorium, which stood where Marshall Furniture now is located. The fire began in the stage area and spread to the northwest, according to information cards on the tour. The fire engulfed much of the block.

Hague also talked about streets fairs, Newton Carnegie Works, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Gold Star Bench near the Harvey County Courthouse, Newton Public Library, Air Dome Theater and train depots, as well as other topics.

— Ashley Bergner contributed to this article.