When is a Library not a Library? Answer: When it is the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis.
Some visitors to the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis are surprised to find a museum behind the "Library" sign on the front of the building. The sign is there because the building originally housed the Davis Free Library and the Davis Branch of the Yolo County Library. Long time Davis residents remember the building when it was on F Street and "Miss Hattie" was in charge. Constructed in 1911 with funds raised by The Bachelor Girls, an early Davis woman's group, and moved to its present site in 1992 through the efforts of the later Library Club, the Museum's mission is to collect, preserve and present the composite memory of the City of Davis for the benefit of its citizens.
|1870||A lending library was founded by Mrs. W.H. Marden and Mrs. F. G. Crawford in the upstairs hall of the Marden House. Rumors were that a lending library was later established in a church on Olive (G) Street but exactly where and by whom are still unanswered.|
|1905||The Davis Free Library was established when Etta Reed Haussler hosted a book shower at the Davisville Grammar School.|
|1906||A traveling library was obtained from the California State Library and placed in the Davisville Grammar School by Etta Reed (Mrs. George) Haussler, one of the teachers.|
|1908||Davis Book Club established with 57 members.|
|1908||The Library moved to Will Greive's Grocery Store, then to the Buena Vista Hotel, owned by A. N. and Jakie Deck Greive, where it remained until 1911.|
|1911||This Library moved into the Davis Free Library, the first station (branch) of the Yolo Free Library.|
|1924||The Library lot deeded to the county and the building remodeled and enlarged.|
|1959||A Children's Room addition added to library.|
|1969||New county library built on 14th Street. This library then sold by the County Board of Supervisors, to the City of Davis.|
|1988||This library moved to 445 C. Street in Davis Central Park to become the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis.|
End of An Era: The Davis Library Club is No More
After almost 100 years of service to the community, the Davis Library Club closed its books and donated its remaining treasury funds to the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis.
Before 1909, there had been several efforts by Davisville women to provide reading materials to Davisville citizens and schoolchildren. None of these became permanent.
On February 9, 1909, Mrs. O.B. Wilber (nee Susan Marden) invited a group of young women to her home. Sixteen unmarried women with surnames reflecting their pioneer heritage (Grieve, Haussler, Weber, Hunt, Plant, Rogers) agreed with married patronesses Wilber, Etta Reed Haussler, Jakie Grieve and Virginia Rogers Chiles to form the Bachelor Girls Club, precursor of The Davis Library Club.
Joined in its first official meeting in April by eight more unmarried women, the Club began a series of fundraising activities, including dances, parties, spinning bees and luncheons. It also provided refreshments for occasions such as Clean-Up Day.
For three years the Club provided the luncheon for invited dignitaries on Picnic Day. Nelle U. Branch reports in an unpublished paper, The Davis Library Past to Present (1966), that the first luncheon was given in a tent erected by John Rogers, the Farm foreman, on the site of the future Dairy Industry building. "It was clod rough ground, and there were some sore feet at the end of that project." (pg.2.) The goal of all this was to establish a library for the community.
During the afternoon of October 3, 1910, Bachelor Club patronesses Annette Wilber and Jakie Grieve canvassed the business district of Davisville for funds to purchase a lot at 117 F Street (then known as Oak Street) for a Davis Library. They collected enough funds to buy the lot and a Library building was then built for a cost of $550; an additional $125 furnished it. Jakie Greive provided the money for the furniture, which was repaid by the Bachelor Girls as they earned it.
The Davis Free Library began operations in 1911. It soon added the Davis Branch of the Yolo County Library with parallel collections and a paid librarian (at $10 per month): Bachelor Girl Harriet Weber. For the next 42 years, the formidable "Miss Hattie" ran the Library and helped Davis youngsters learn to read.
Funds from The Bachelor Girls supplied books and paid the bills for utilities, janitors and yard maintenance. In the 1940's Miss Hattie had two assistants: Narcissa Pena and Alice (Watson) Hoffman. (John Brinley letter to the Davis Library Club, March 29, 1984; Hattie Weber Museum of Davis.)
For reasons unrecorded, but possibly related to the threatened imposition of a $5.00 fine on any member who deserted the Club to marry, The Bachelor Girls Club became The Davis Library Club in 1924, with membership limited to 24. Members could be married. Most members were related to the original Bachelor Girls and later membership by those unrelated to the Bachelor Girls or The Davis Library Club members was discouraged.
The Library Club Constitution provided: "The purpose of this Club shall be to encourage the development of the City Library by giving such financial support as is difficult to obtain from City and County funds; to stimulate community interest in reading; and to develop a social club which shall have at heart the best interest of the Library." (Branch, 1966, p. 3).
The Library Club continued to support the Davis Free Library and the Yolo County Branch Library, contributing funds for furnishings after two expansions of the original facility. The original building was deeded to the County in 1923 and first enlarged to 18 by 30 feet in 1924 by the County at a cost of $3,400. (Branch, 1966, pg. 2)
According to Joann Larkey in Davisville '68, "By 1959 it became obvious that [library] facilities were once again inadequate for the growing population of Davis. Therefore, a citizens group was organized to augment the Davis Library Club's continuing support. Friends of the Davis Library was formally voted into being on May 13, 1959. Charter officers were Fred L. Griffin, president; Roberta Stevenson, secretary; and Mrs. A.G. Anderson, treasurer. The 304 members contributed $2,100 in dues and additional gifts, while pledges by organizations, including $2,000 from The Davis Library Club, brought a total of $6, 400 to be used for remodeling and expanding the Library in l961." (Pg. 113)
Continued population growth in the 1960's put new pressure on the old Library and a new facility was built by the County on 14th Street in 1967-68. Once again, the Library Club contributed to the furnishings and transferred its support to the new facility.
The old Library building, which had become a teen center, was scheduled for demolition in the 1980's when The Library Club, mobilized by Phyllis Haig (granddaughter of Susan Wilber) and Jane Van Sant (granddaughter of Jakie Grieve and then President of The Library Club) intervened with a proposal to move the building to Central Park and possibly transform it into a museum. The City agreed, repurchasing the building, moving it six blocks to 445 C Street on August 24, 1988, remodeling it at a cost of $175,000 and allocating $22,000 for museum development.
After several years of renovations supervised by Phyllis Haig, Jane Van Sant and Connie Laventurier, with other members of the Library Club working tirelessly to restore the building and transform it into an embodiment of the collective memory of the Davis community, the Library building was ready to reopen as the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis.
The Hattie Weber Museum of Davis (it seemed logical to name the Museum after the Bachelor Girl/Library Club member and first paid librarian) was dedicated with great ceremony in the memorial rose garden next to the museum in 1992, the 75th anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Davis. Maggie (Margaret) Gordon-Kautz and other members had spend Saturday mornings at the Farmers Market for months raising additional funds for the Museum by selling the engraved bricks that pave the patio.
Phyllis Haig became the first Director of the Museum. Jane Van Sant became a one-woman outreach program, traveling to schools in costume and bringing schoolchildren into the Museum to talk about growing up in Davis when airplanes were a rare and frightening event. Members of The Library Club became Museum Docents. Donations of historical documents and artifacts flowed in to the Museum, many from Library Club members or their estates.
Exhibits mounted at the Museum included Moving the Library building, The First Davis Library, Early Davis Schools, Davis Streets with Pioneer Names, a History of the Chiles Family, Jerome Davis, The Coming of the Railroad, The University Farm, Davisville Hotels and others. Receptions were held to celebrate exhibit openings.
The Library Club operated the Hattie Weber Museum of Davis for almost 15 years, but over the years the Club languished as members aged and died and were not replaced. In 1990, there were 24 members; in 2000 there were still 20 active members. By 2005, there were only 5, most of whom were feeling a bit incapacitated by age or ill health.
Jim Becket and the Yolo County Historical Society stepped in to carry on the work in 2006. They honored Phyllis Haig and the Bachlor Girls/Library club at a reception and exhibit opening in February 2009. The Davis community and all Yolo County citizens owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the resolute women of The Davis Library Club who provided a valuable cultural resource which otherwise would not have existed in our town.