Attractive Statesville

Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Sep 24

History of the New Library

Posted on September 24, 2015 at 4:16 PM by Steve Messick

Friends of the Library Board 2003

The Iredell County Public Library opened to the public in its new building at 201 N. Tradd St. on April 11, 2005. It’s our ten-year anniversary, but we still call it the “new library.” The library didn’t have far to move from our old location at 135 E. Water Street. We are just down the hill from the old building which now houses the Iredell County Tax Administration and Land Records offices. The walk to our old building is pretty short compared to the story of how the new building came to be.

During a dinner meeting at the home of Mrs. Angel Kelsey in the year 2000 several members of the Junior Service League expressed their frustration with the Iredell County Public Library on Water St. They agreed that the current library building was too small. A vote was held and the JSL members agreed unanimously to launch a petition drive to urge county leaders to build a new library. The petition drive was called, “More Space NOW.”

Arlene Foster spoke before the Iredell County Commissioners on June 20, 2000 seeking permission to place a copy of the “More Space NOW” petition in the Iredell County Public Library. The commission unanimously agreed to the request. Over the next few months 51 members of the Junior Service League donated more than 1,000 hours delivering and maintaining petitions in over thirty businesses and non-profits in Iredell County. Leaders in the community such as Godfrey Williams, Marvin Norman, Sara Haire-Tice, John Marshall, Costi Kutteh, and others supported the petition.

Jay Blackwelder of Statesville Printers donated printing, paper, and labor and Kay Martin of Sir Speedy donated supplies. Internet America helped set up a “More Space NOW” website while Hanna, Martha, and Maggie Kutteh, Addie and Nathan McElwee, and Mary Grace and Madeline Snoddy handed out flyers with Maureen and Kyle Snoddy providing transportation. An anonymous donor paid for rental space for a booth at the Iredell County Fair where Alan, Kathy, and Elizabeth Carpenter, their Girl Scout troop, youth from area churches, JSL families, and local boy scouts worked the petition booth.

In January 2001, JSL President Heather Griffin appeared before the Iredell County Commissioners presenting the “More Space NOW” petition with nearly 4,000 names. At their annual retreat a few days later the commissioners pledged $5.6 million to build a new library. The headline in the Statesville Record and Landmark on Jan. 31, 2001 proclaimed, “Library Patrons Declare Victory.”

The next question was where to build? The Iredell County Commissioners agreed to trade 10 acres the county owned in the Mooresville area for 23 acres owned by Tarheel Auction & Realty near the Signal Hill Mall. The site would allow plenty of room for a new library building with space for adequate parking and future expansion. It seemed perfect, but the editorial in the Statesville Record & Landmark on May 5, 2002 read, “City will regret moving library from downtown.”

In response, in a June 2002 meeting Statesville Mayor John Marshall and the Statesville City Council voted to provide $500,000 to help pay for the construction of the new library provided it remained downtown. The site chosen by the city was at the corner of Meeting and Front Streets. The County Commissioners agreed to the plan and on August 7, 2002, the Record and Landmark proclaimed, “County Commissioners Narrowly Agree on Meeting Street Site, Library Goes Downtown.” The new Iredell County Public Library would be built on Meeting Street.

Well, almost. Ground testing on the site discovered underground water and gas contamination. Many people expressed reservations about the site including County Commissioners Steve Johnson, Tommy Bowles and Statesville City Councilman Jap Johnson. Another petition was started in opposition to the Meeting Street site by Alan Eisele who said “It’s a water-saturated, polluted piece of ground. Any site is buildable, but you don’t know what it’s going to cost.” The architect firm of Craig, Gaulden & Davis Inc. declared the site buildable and the city of Statesville raised their contribution to the project to $1.4 million in order to cover the cost of the site.

Then on September 14, 2002, the Charlotte Observer headline announced, “City abandons Iredell library site proposal.” Bowing to public pressure, the City Council of Statesville voted to drop the Meeting St. site proposal. On September 18, 2002, the location was settled and the Record and Landmark ran the headline, “Library to Remain Downtown.” By unanimous decision the Iredell County Commissioners voted to construct the new library on the land behind the library’s then current location. Statesville Brick Company partners Michael Foster and Sonny Rankin agreed to donate $50,000 worth of brick for the new building. Iredell County provided 80% of the funding, with the City of Statesville providing 15%. An anonymous donor donated $200,000 and the Iredell Friends of the Library raised $80,000 to purchase library materials. Ground breaking for the new building began in August 2003.