Historic Jones Memorial Library
The original Jones Memorial Library location at 434 Rivermont Avenue is the second oldest library in the state of Virginia. Mary Frances Jones built the library in memory of George M. Jones, and it opened in 1908. George Jones began plans to open the library in memory of his late daughters Georgie and Lilli Jones, shortly after their deaths, but died before he could complete his plans. The library was created to be Lynchburg's first public library, although this excluded everyone who was not white or a Lynchburg local. The library has since relocated from its historic location at 434 Rivermont to its new location at 2311 Memorial Ave. The library has specialized in genealogy since 1966.
Backstory and Context
When the library initially opened slavery, African-American rights, and segregation were important issues, and so during its initial years, at the 434 Rivermont Avenue location, the library was for the use of "whites-only".5 In a time when the governor and the public thought that it would be better to shut down the public school system than allow white and black people to comingle within school, the library's stance of segragation was not an irregularity.3
The library was segregated due to the policy of segregation being the norm, "It certainly wasn't a good thing, but it wasn't an odd thing at the time."5 The deed for the Historic Jones Memorial Library notes that the library could only be used by "white people without respect for religious distinction."5 The Jones Memorial library opened seven branches including one in Dunbar, located at Dunbar Highschool, for the use of African Americans.5
George M. Jones
George M. Jones initially gained his fortune by forming a partnership with his brothers-in-law Richard T. and James W. Watts, to create a "wholesale and retail hardware dealer", they were successful and opened other branches.2 George then helped to develop Lynchburg's first cotton mill and the mining industry.2 He also served as President of the National Exchange Bank of Lynchburg and as the first President of the Lynchburg Board of Trade.2
George became a wealthy entrepeneur due to his dealings in real estate and hardware and amassed a large fortune.8 In 1884, George's favorite daughter Georgie, passed away at 19 years old after a bout with an illness.8 George wholly devoted himself to his remaining daughter Lillie, but Lillie also grew ill, the Jones took her to Carlsbad, Germany, to attempt to save her life with the "restorative waters", but on August 12th, 1885 Lilie died at 16 years old.8 George was greatly affected by his daughters' deaths and the great tradegy transformed his whole demeanor.8
George was a philanthropist, often striving to aid the public in any way he could.4 Jones approached Dr. William Waugh Smith President of Randolph-Macon Men's College and petitioned him to create a college for women, which eventually lead to the opening of Randolph-Macon Women's College.4 George further contributed to the school by donating to the building fund and aiding in the school's development.4
Although George could no longer pass his fortune to his daughters he decided to use his fortune for the greater good and create something for the public, a memorial to them and a sorely needed facility for the public, a library.8 George's philanthropist nature grew stronger once his two daughers passed away, as he aimed to create a public library "the finest in the South" in their memory.4 Due to Lynchburg's interest in the arts and education the concept of a library was well received as noted in a newspaper article, "the library will be one of the greatest benefits ever conferred on the people of Lynchburg..."4
George Jones passed away in 1902 interrupting his plans to create a public library.4 In his will he left the responsibility and the task of building the library, in memory of their daughters, to his wife Mary Frances Jones.2 Mary constructed, equipped, and filled the library and was "actively involved in the day-to-day operation of the Library".1 Mary further provided for the library after her death by the creation of an endowment.1 The library still operates on the money provided from the endowment and does not receive money from any public source, although donations are accepted.1
George Jones' widow Frances Watts Jones, continued with George's plans to build a public library and erected the Jones Memorial Library in his memory.4 The library was built in Rivermont directly after the Rivermont bridge in the Beaux-arts style, and costs for the library rose to "more than $100,000".4 Frances Jones also comissioned two "nearly life-size bronze statues of her husband in a Confederate officer's uniform" leading people to believe that George Jones was a general, although he had only briefly served in the army.4 The library opened in 1908, and although called a public library was only available to "white residents of Lynchburg" and remained this way until a new Jones Memorial Library was opened in 1966 in a building in downtown Lynchburg, where it has located and remains to this day.4
Frances Jones was reported to be very possessive of the library, as she would have the library closed when she left town on vacation.4 Frances was also known for arranging the books by color instead of in their proper order, which the librarians would reorder once she left.4
The Historic Jones Memorial Library contains many features that contribute to the overall majesty of the building. The exterior has famous authors names engraved along the top of the building as well an engraving above the front entrance dedicating the library in memory of George M. Jones. The exterior also exhibits an impressive dome and ionic columns which continue into the interior of the building
The interior consists of many impressive features such as a multitude of molding styles such as: Egg and Dart, Bead and Dart, Anthemion, Dentil, Greek Fret and others. The interior view of the dome has a skylight in the center and panels surrounding this skylight that are designed to look like a night sky filled with stars, each of these panels has molding that imitates the appearance of a draped wreath. The interior contains Ionic columns with a variety of molding styles along the top of each capital. Greek Fret designs ornament the floors and along the staircase. The biggest feature of the library is the 3-story metal book stacks that dominate a third of the building, they have glass floors which can be lighted from the ceiling light from the floor below.
The building was constructed in the Neo-Classical Revival Style in 1906-07 by architects Prye and Chesterman.2 "The steps, terraces, and porches were designed by the Boston landscape architect Bremer Pond and were added in 1924. A three-story wing was built on the rear (east) elevation in 1968."2 The nine stained glass windows that originally decorated the building were designed by "Lamb of New York" they were designed to represent " the nine grand divisions of human expression", these were placed in storage due to "lighting problems" and have been replaced by 1/1 hung-sash windows.2 Seven of the original nine stained glass windows were auctioned when the library moved from 434 Rivermont to its new location at 2311 Memorial Avenue, the remaining two, History and Philosophy, are on display at the Jones Memorial Library's new location.
In 1966, the Lynchburg Public Library was opened, and due to its greater financial support was able to better supply Lynchburg residents with more and a wider selection of materials than the Jones Memorial Library could.1 The Jones Memorial Library then decided to focus its efforts on Genealogy and maintains this purpose today.1 Due to the library needing "extensive repairs and renovations" it was moved in July 1987 order to better maintain and preserve its collection.5
2.National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination: Jones Memorial Library. October 30, 1980. Accessed March 19, 2019. https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/VLR_to_transfer/PDFNoms/118-0153_Jones_Memorial_Library_1980_Final_Nomination.pdf.
3.Wallenstein, Peter. Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History. Lawrence, Kansas. University Press of Kansas, 2007.
4.Potter, Clifton. Potter, Dorothy. Lynchburg: A City Set on Seven Hills. Great Britain. Arcadia Publishing, 2004.
5.Southhall, Amanda. "100 Years of Learning: Jones Memorial Library." Lynchburg Living. Lynchburg LivingMay 30, 2008. , 60-63.
6.Caudill Jr., Luther E.. Jones Memorial Library: The Legacy Behind its Founding. Lynchburg, Virginia. Warwick House, 1978.
7.Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography. Vol. 5. New York, New York. Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc..
8.Sandberg, Jeni. "Mrs. George M. Jones and Her 'Monumental Reality'." Lynch's Ferry: A Journal of Local History, no. Spring/Summer, 36-41. Published 1994.