The upstairs of the Lillian Tear Library in downtown Sedgwick now sits empty and silent, a veneer of dust covering the furniture in the long-unoccupied rooms.


The upstairs of the Lillian Tear Library in downtown Sedgwick now sits empty and silent, a veneer of dust covering the furniture in the long-unoccupied rooms.

But that vacant space played an important role in the century-old building’s past, and could someday play a role in the library’s future.

The building’s downstairs is occupied by the city’s library, and in the past the building has served a variety of functions in the community, including a bank, newspaper office and attorney’s office.

“This library has a lot of character to it,” said Candy Fangman, library director. “A lot of history to it.”

The building, located at 501 N. Commercial, is part of the city of Sedgwick’s downtown historic district, which recently was named to the Register of Historic Kansas Places.

In the late 1880s, the building served as the site of the Sedgwick State Bank, whose first president was a Civil War veteran named George Kanavel who had settled in Harvey County in 1872. The second floor was occupied by the printing office of the Sedgwick Pantagraph newspaper, according to an 1885 city directory.

In the 1930s, the

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building housed the offices of attorney C.L. Foster and dentist H.F. Jacobs.

The city’s library, the current occupant of the building, was named for its most famous librarian, Lillian Clayton Tear. She was born in England and moved to Sedgwick in 1911, and she worked at the library until the age of 90.

Fangman said legend has it Tear would read every book in the library before shelving it and would flag those she thought were inappropriate.

“She would bury them in her backyard,” Fangman said.

Tear’s chair still is at the library, kept in memory of the library’s namesake.

The city has been looking into renovating the upstairs of the building, so the library can have more room to expand, city administrator Jaci Reimer reported to the Kansan earlier this year.

Fangman believes the upstairs still may have some of its original wallpaper and some antique furniture.

“I think it’s really nice upstairs,” she said. “It shows a lot of the character of the building.”

The Lillian Tear Library is open from 1 to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays.

For more information about the library, call 772-5727 or email Sedgwicktearlib@cityofsedgwick.org.