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Lawrence Memorial Library

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101 East Laurel
Springfield, IL 62704
217/525-3233
 
Background

The Lawrence School (now known as the Lawrence Education Center) was designed by Helmle and Helmle and completed in 1905, one year after the Dana Thomas House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. During the same time, the Lawrence Memorial Library, a 25' by 30' room in the school, was also designed by Wright, who had been commissioned by Susan Lawrence Dana. She wanted to preserve the memory of her father, Rheuna Lawrence, who was president of the school board at the time of his death in 1901. There are similarities between the library in the Dana Thomas House and the Lawrence Memorial Library, and the differences can be attributed to the fact that the Lawrence Memorial Library was designed for constant use by children.

Restoration of the Lawrence Education Center

The Springfield Public School District 186, which conducts its adult and alternative education programs in the Lawrence Education Center, remodeled the school building in accordance with the State of Illinois Life/Safety Codes in the early 1990's. The remodel included the replacement of the original wood double-hung windows with energy-efficient glazing. The cost - $500,000 - was available from the district's normal construction fund. Private funds of an additional $100,000 supported the historical restoration of the Lawrence Memorial Library. They helped to retain the original materials such as moldings, shelves, and window trim. Frank Lloyd Wright's original drawings were followed as closely as possible. The fiscal agent for the library restoration was the nonprofit Springfield Public Schools Foundation.

During the summer of 2007, the orange carpet that had been used during the original restoration was removed and replaced with hard wood flooring. Again the Springfield Public Schools Foundation supported this endeavor by assisting with the $6,500 cost.

For images of this process, please follow this link to the image gallery.

Lawrence Education Center's School History

Lawrence Education Center, originally build as an elementary school, currently serves as the adult and alternative education center of Springfield School District 186. The building, one of the oldest in the system, has had a long record of service to the community, culminating in its present activities for it's learners. Adult literacy, study skills, work habits, entry-level clerical and office occupations, high school diploma, and the GED high school equivalency are the core of the activities supported by state and federal grants. Students range in age from sixteen into their seventies. Assistance with transportation and child care at Lawrence Education Center serves as an integral part of the Springfield community. Its central location has enabled many Springfield citizens an opportunity to return to school to continue their education or to begin new learning experiences.

Lawrence Memorial Library

Originally, the library for the Lawrence School was located in a classroom, but it was converted to the Lawrence Memorial Library in the early 1900s by Frank Lloyd Wright. After many years of use and a need for additional classroom space, the library was converted back into a classroom and then into storage space. When the Lawrence Memorial Library was restored in the 1990s, the library for the school was again available for students to use. For a time, the restored library was staffed by volunteers from the Springfield Altrusa Club. The current operation of the library was considered in restoration decisions. Because of the historical importance of Frank Lloyd Wright designs, public interest in viewing the Lawrence Library was also accommodated. It is expected that of the estimated 100,000 annual Dana Thomas House visitors, some of them would also wish to see the Lawrence Memorial Library. For such visitors, an informative handout is available, and a selection of historical materials (plans, photographs, etc.) are exhibited on the South wall, in a clear view of the Lawrence Memorial Library.

Because of Susan Dana's interest in children, in public education, and in her father's service to the community, a small collection of relevant books, articles, and reports are also on display. These items pertain to Frank Lloyd Wright, turn-of-the-century Springfield, and libraries of the early 20th century, and they are located in one of the four alcoves. These materials are available for viewing by the students and personnel of Springfield schools; colleges and universities; visiting scholars; and other interested persons. Since it has been restored and equipped, the Lawrence Memorial Library has become a resource for the students from other Springfield schools. Accommodating visits by groups of up to 25 students can be made possible, and groups of visitors will be scheduled with minimum disruption of the principal use of the room by Lawrence Education Center's students.

General

The restoration of Lawrence Library has balanced the demands of a historically accurate restoration to the library's functionality for the Lawrence Education Center. Modern mechanical standards and maintenance, including air-conditioning and lighting, have not detracted from the quality of the historical restoration.