of the Punta Gorda Library

Knowledge is Power

My father, a fifth generation Floridian, had been a career Army man.  He married later in life and by the time I was born, he was almost ready to retire.  After spending my early childhood at Fort Hood, Fort Benning and in Germany, my dad retired and moved us to his hometown of Palatka, which is on the St. Johns River in North Florida.

In the early 1950s we were like many families, living simple lives without much extra money for things like books.  My mother was an avid reader and I don't remember a time when there wasn't  an open book by her chair.  To meet my mom's demand for books and her desire for us to read, we went to the local library every week.

My hometown was very fortunate to have a wonderful library.  James R. Mellon, who was a member of the prominent industrial family, wintered in Palatka's in what is now the historic district.  As an act of philanthropic largess, he commissioned Henry J. Klutho of Jacksonville to design a library.  It was completed in 1929 and was donated to Palatka in 1930.  The new building was named for his wife, Rachel Hughey Larimer.

The library's architecture style was a combination of the Prairie School design with Art Deco style elements.  The symmetrical facade was incised across the top with the phrases "Ignorance Breeds Crime" and Knowledge is Power." Two decorative lampposts flanked the stone steps that went up to the recessed portico.  The interior has terrazzo floors, a segmented skylight and Art Deco details. 

Thousands attended the opening of what was then one of the most modern libraries in the south.  It was able to house over 50,000 volumens and the building functioned in that capactiy for 62 years.  The beautiful old building was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2008.  It is now the Larimer Arts Center.

Going to the library was one of my weekly joys.  I would get excited as I got out of the car, walk up the staircase and wait for my mom to open the heavy doors.  In the heat of the Florida summers and living without air conditioning, the coolness of the library would welcome us to the most magical place on earth (it would be years before Disney would build in Florida).  The opportunity to choose new books each week and find wonderful authors who would transport me to new adventures and places left me with larger world view than I would have had just living in a small town without a window to the world.

I still believe in the words that I would read each time I walked up the stairs to the library doors; "Ignorance Breeds Crime and Knowledge is Power."

Libraries today still offer a window to the world and provide the resources to gain knowledge and learn.  There is more than just books and magazines at today's libraries.  You can find movies, music, audio books, ebooks, college prep guides, and computer centers.  There are programs and events.  You can meet authors and take classes.  New technology is being offered all the time.  There really is something for everyone.

I hope to see you around the library.

Katie Mazzi