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Historic Cairo

Cairo Public Library

    Safford Memorial Building

    NOTE: Additional Photos below.

Mrs. Alfred B. Safford, as a memorial to her husband, who died in July, 1877, had the Safford Memorial Building erected by Lancaster and Rice Mfg. Co., presenting it to the City of Cairo on July 19, 1884. Upon the completion of the building, which was to be maintained by a library tax, the Cairo Woman's Club and Library Association contributed its collection of books, approximately 1500 volumes. In return, the club was given a room in the new building to be used for its meetings.

Mrs. L. L. Powell, the first librarian, served for 40 years. Upon her death in 1922, friends honored her with a memorial fund for the erection of a bronze tablet in the Children's Room, to be known as the Powell Memorial Room. Miss Effie A. Lansden, her assistant, then became the highly honored, beloved librarian for the next 20 years. In the 104 years of the library's existence, only six librarians have served: Mrs. Powell, Miss Lansden, Miss Elizabeth Hilboldt, Mrs. Evelyn J. Snyder, Mrs. Virginia Walker, and the present librarian, Mrs. Louise Ogg (Monica Vines Smith is the present librarian).

Few changes have been made in the red brick building, which is of Queen Ann architecture. The leaded stained glass windows are the original ones.

Two niches on the outside of the building at the entrance hold statues of Clio, the Greek Muse of history, and Concordia, a Roman goddess of peace. These were presented to Mrs. Safford by the citizens of Cairo in gratitude for the library.

The bronze fountain, FIGHTING BOYS, an original work of art by one of America's famous sculptors, Janet Scudder, was commissioned and presented by Miss Mary E. Halliday.

In the vestibule is a drinking fountain, a memorial gift acquired through the Federal Aid Project of the W.P.A..

The first floor consists of a vestibule, hall, the adult reading room, reference room, the children's reading room, and the stack room.

In the entrance hall can be seen the wide staircase with ornamental balustrade and wainscoting of walnut, oak and gum, graduated to form an ornate effect typical of the Queen Ann period. This combination of woods is used in the decor of the walls and ceilings throughout the building.

In the adult reading room are ornate shelves that were originally in the Woman's Club reading room on Ohio Street, and now are used for periodicals. The huge round oak table is a gambling table from a steamboat. The chairs with U.S. carved in the backs are from the Custom House, as are thefive large walnut display cabinets and the Italian marble mantel of the fireplace, all circa 1867.

A rare Tiffany grandfather's clock stands on the first landing of the stairs. The library has been told that only four of this particular kind were made by Tiffany and Co. On the second landing is a fourteenth century Italian rosewood credenza.

The auditorium upstairs was designed to seat 200, and Mrs. Safford provided the appropriate number of chairs, of which there are still 180. The beautiful chandelier originally hung in the Cairo Opera House, which was opened in 1881.

In 1962, the new stack room was added to the building to accommodate the increasing number of books in the library's collection. Still increasing, the collection now numbers 41,000 plus. Also in 1962, a fireproof vault was added for the safety of historical materials given to the library over the years.

In 1984, a Special Collections Room was added, made possible by funding from the Oris B. Hastings Charitable Foundation. In order to preserve the library's valuable collection of historical materials, a second-floor storeroom was remodeled to create an environment of controlled temperature, humidity and light. The room contains a treasuretrove of information, from the Civil War to the 1937 Flood, also books, maps, and pictures of importance to Cairo and Alexander County history. This room was dedicated on May 5, 1985.

Following photos taken by Vicki October 2004

Outside yard of library

Water fountain just inside door

Just inside front entrance

Looking down on checkout from the staircase

A bust of A.B. Safford for whom the library was named

Display of circus figures inside the reading room

The fireplace in the Adult Reading Room

Some of the beautiful stained glass windows in the library

One of the Federal Style cabinets from the Cairo Customs House full of memorabilia in the Adult Reading Room

The periodical shelves were originally in the Woman's Club
Reading Room on Ohio Street and pre-date the library itself.
The round oak table was first used as a gambling table aboard a steamboat.
The chairs with "US" engraved in the back are from the Cairo Customs House.

A portrait of Mrs. Anna Safford hangs in the Reference Room

A replica of the steamboat, City of Cairo,
sits proudly in a display case in the Reference Room

The Powell Children's Reading Room

A beautiful "Tiffany" grandfather's clock stands on the first landing of the stairway.
It was presented to the library by Berta Smith Eytinge Bonfanti

A portrait of A.B. Safford hangs on the second landing of the stairway

On the second floor in the auditorium hangs this beautiful chandelier,
with plaque that once hung in the Cairo Opera House

A 200 seating capacity auditorium is used for many events

A magnificent piano in the Auditorium

A meeting room on the second floor

Some of the beautiful artwork displayed
in the meeting room on second floor

A plaque honoring Winifred Fairfax Walder hangs in the meeting
room on the second floor

A painting of 3 of Alexander County Courthouses hangs in the Reference Room

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