Address:1180 Washington Avenue
Macon, GA 31201-1790
Hours of Operation:Monday-Thursday: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm
Friday, Saturday: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
* CLOSED Sunday
Genealogical & Historical Room
Monday 9:00am - 9:00pm
Tuesday - Saturday 9:00am - 6:00pm
Monday – Thursday 9:00am - 8:45pm
Friday & Saturday 9:00am - 5:45pm
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History of Washington Memorial Library
In 1916, Ellen Washington Bellamy donated $50,000.00 and the site on the corner of Washington Avenue and College Street, known as Washington Place, for the construction of a new library to be built in honor of her brother, Hugh Vernon Washington. The cornerstone was laid on April 26, 1919, but the library did not open until 1923 due to a lack of funds for materials. The Washington Memorial Library, designed by Nisbet and Dunwody, was opened to the public on November 28, 1923. Washington Place was the home of James H. R. Washington, a former mayor of Macon. The old Washington family home was once the scene of grand social occasions, and British author William Makepeace Thackeray was entertained there when he came to Macon to give a reading. The house was turned from facing Washington Avenue to facing College Street.
Memorials to the Washington family are incorporated into the original building’s architecture. The coat of arms of the Washington family is displayed above the original front door. Bas-relief cameos of Ellen Washington Bellamy, her brother Hugh Washington, and their parents, James H.R. Washington (1809-1866) and Mary Hammond Washington (1816-1901), are located high on the north and south interior walls below the barrel-vaulted ceiling.
On the second floor of the original portion of the library is the Lanier Alcove. It houses a bust of the poet Sidney C. Lanier by sculptor Gutzon Borglum, designer of Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Stone Mountain.
In 1923, the Mary Hammond Washington Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution opened the Genealogical & Historical Room. Mrs. Washington’s father, Colonel Samuel Hammond, had served during the war, making her a REAL Daughter of the American Revolution. A charter member of the national organization, she would be the last living person to have a chapter named for them.
Thanks to a sponsorship by the Macon Lions Club, the Children’s Room opened in 1927 on the first floor facing College Street.
By 1959, the Library had added 3,000 square feet using bonds issued by the City of Macon in 1956.
In 1976, renovations began that would greatly change the existing structure. The Library was remodeled and the land adjacent to it was purchased for expansion and parking. The Washington-McCook house was moved to 938 Park Place for preservation.
By 1979, the renovations were complete, and the library was enlarged to its current size of 50,000 square feet.
Over the years, interior maintenance of the building has resulted in various color schemes in paint and carpet. The introduction of new technologies required changes; from 2005 to May 2011, the Washington Memorial Library underwent extensive renovations. On May 3, 2011, Washington Memorial Library re-opened with the following modifications:
- replacement of the reference desk
- a state-of-the-art computer lab replacing the microfilm department
- three computer study rooms
- new furnishings
- reading room tables with electrical power and Internet wiring
- wireless Internet access
- new paint and carpet
- new lighting
- Teen Central, an area designated for young adults
- computers for children on the third floor
Support for this $1 million project came from combined funding by the Bibb County Government, Macon Friends of the Library, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. As a result, the free computer classes offered at Washington Memorial Library have to date served thousands of people.
Thanks to a sponsorship by the Macon Lions Club, the Children’s Room opened in 1927 on the first floor facing College Street in the space previously used for art exhibits. In the 1959 renovation, the children’s department was moved to the third floor over what is now the reference desk. The area was small, and when events took place, it was crowded. With the 1979 renovation, the children’s room moved to its present location on the third floor of the new building.