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Library History

How did a small houseboat and a $100 donation from Henry Flagler end up transforming into the largest municipal library in Palm Beach County?

 

What is now the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach started out in 1895 as the West Palm Beach Reading Room in the Congregational Church at the corner of Datura and Olive Streets. Soon after, Commodore C.J. Clarke, a Palm Beach yachtsman, donated a houseboat to the Palm Beach Literary Society. The collection from the Reading Room and that $100 donation from Mr. Flagler created the first City of West Palm Beach library.
 
Free Reading Room
Free Reading Room
Memorial Library
Memorial Library












The City’s first permanent library was an artistic Spanish style building facing the Intracoastal Waterway. Memorial Library was dedicated to the men and women who served in World War I. In the 1960’s, a new City library designed by architect Norman Robson was dedicated and opened with much flourish and public comment over its modern, colorful, exterior frieze panels. The name of the library at 100 Clematis Street was changed to the West Palm Beach Public Library.
 
West Palm Beach Public Library
West Palm Beach Public Library
Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach
Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach

















In 2009, the library moved from the waterfront to its present facility at City Center in downtown West Palm Beach, and in 2012, the Mandel Foundation awarded a $5 million grant to the West Palm Beach Library Foundation for the enhancement of library programs and services. The West Palm Beach Public Library was renamed the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach.
 
Today, the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach welcomes over half a million visitors every year, loaning over 800,000 items to 100,000+ library cardholders. We’ve changed a lot over the past 100 years, but our history is a big part of who we are today. Come visit the library and see for yourself!
 
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