The History of Allerton Public Library
Over a Century of Service [1897 – 2018]
At the April 1895 Monticello town meeting, the possibility of a combination Town Hall-Library Building was discussed. Opinion was divided, partly because the proposed building was also to contain an Opera House. Certain prominent landowners opposed the building and the question was heatedly discussed. After much debate, and pursuant to the rules of town meetings, a show of support was called for, in which parties for the project stood to one side of the meeting room and those opposed moved to the other side. The people on each side were to be counted and the majority was to prevail. The proposition was about to be rejected when Mrs. Samuel Allerton stepped forward.
The principal objection of many people was the cost of furnishing the library. Mr. Allerton stated that if the people of Monticello Township would erect a suitable building, his wife would donate the funds to stock the library with furniture, books, periodicals, and all of the necessary equipment to make it a first class facility. The price of all of this was generally estimated to be in the neighborhood of $10,000. This generous offer influenced a number of people objecting to the project to change sides. The proposal carried by a large majority. Mr. Daniel Hall made the following motion, which was adopted:
- Resolved: That the sum of $15,000 be raised by taxation in the Township of Monticello, Piatt County, Illinois, in the year 1895, for the purpose of buying site and erecting thereon a town hall and a room for a public library for the use of the inhabitants of said township.
It was decided to construct a building that not only housed a town hall and library but also an Opera House and other public rooms. It was hoped that the Opera House would raise enough money to help support the library financially. The library was to be named for its principal benefactor, Mrs. Agnes Allerton, wife of Samuel and step-mother of Robert.
Ground was broken in July 1896 and the library was ready for use by late October 1897. The library was located in what now is the Garden Room of the current building and contained four stacks of books shelves. The room was divided into a reading room and a periodical department.
The library was financed largely by gate receipts from the Opera House for many years until 1919 when Monticello Township had to vote a tax to maintain the library. By 1948 the building was only being used by the library but there was interest in many civic groups in purchasing and remodeling the building. The Community Club accepted the Town Hall-Library building as a gift from the township and a $100,000 bond was issued to convert the building into a community center which would allow an enlarged space for the library. In 1951, the library moved across the hall to their current location and began paying monthly rent.
In 2005, former Monticello resident Max Hency passed away and named Allerton Public Library in his will. The bequest would total $2.8 million which would allow the library to build its own facility.
A long list of properties was investigated beginning with sites close to the downtown area. Items that were considered in selecting the new site were availability of city utilities, roads, sidewalks and bike paths. Also taken into consideration was the potential site preparation (i.e. moving dirt, demolition, and remediation.)
After a long search, in December 2012, the library purchased the 10+ acre site where Carle Clinic had intended to build a new clinic. This property had numerous infrastructural improvements – utilities, detention pond, parking lot, sidewalks, and landscaping.
Allerton Public Library opened in its new location on August 22, 2016.