The Lake Worth Beach Public Library was born of the vision of the early pioneer women who settled Lake Worth. While the men were concentrating on building a city, the women saw the need for a school and a library. In May 1912, The Lucerne Herald, the local newspaper, carried an appeal for book donations. Mr. and Mrs. John L. McKissock pedaled their bicycles the seven miles to West Palm Beach to pick up the donations as they arrived. Soon the town furnished a room for the rapidly growing library. The local people read the books by candlelight, oil and gasoline lamps until May 1914 when electric lights were turned on in the city. The Library is proud to point out that there was a library in Lake Worth five months before the first school and nearly two years ahead of the lights.
In 1926, the Lake Worth Beach City Council called an election and the majority of citizens voted in favor of the establishment of a library under Florida Statutes. The Lake Worth Beach Public Library was organized at this time and the assets of the Library Association formed by the pioneers were turned over to the Library Board. For several years the library was housed in City Hall.
With limited space at City Hall, efforts were formulated to build a new library. It had been originally planned to name the new facility as a memorial to General William Jenkins Worth, the man credited with ending the Seminole Wars, as no memorial had been erected to him in Florida. Congress passed a bill providing $60,000 funding for this building in 1939; however, President Roosevelt vetoed the bill. Because of this, the library is named for the City instead as serving as a memorial library.
The library supporters were disappointed but still determined to have a new home. Through prudent investment and a fund raising campaign, a new library building was erected in 1941 and a dedicatory service was held August 12, 1941. It has been proudly noted that the building was erected without taxing the citizens or with Federal assistance. At the time of construction, James and William Strait provided $10,000 to build an art museum wing. For many years this was the home of the Art League until The League moved to larger quarters. The wing is now home to the children’s library collection.
The Lake Worth Beach Public Library is housed in a Mediterranean type building in the historic downtown and has many unique treasures unusual for a library:
- Only known collection of historic paintings by noted artist R. Sherman Winton. Collection features Florida themes of the Spanish period including De Soto, Ponce De Leon, and Osceola and a 6’X18’ mural of the Spanish Armada.
- Wood carvings by Sam J. Schlappich, a Lake Worth artist who exhibited at the Century of Progress Fair in 1933 and the World Fair in 1939.