Community efforts to build a library in Tampa began in 1905. However, it was 1912 before a grant received from the Carnegie Foundation enabled building to start on a site near Franklin Street on Seventh Avenue. The building, designed by architect Fred James was completed on June 30, 1915. Opening of the facility was delayed for nearly two years until Tampa City Council funded an operating budget of $10,000 per year. At last, on Friday, April 27, 1917, Tampa Public Library opened for business with a collection consisting of 3,800 donated books.
For the next fifty years, this building served as the Main Library for the City of Tampa and supported the growing and evolving network of neighborhood branches speading throughout Hillsborough County. Learn more about our Seventh Avenue origins.
In 1947, Helen Virginia Steele, the library's first director, and William Frieze, the library's second director, celebrate the library's thirtieth anniversary.
By the early 1960s Hillsborough County's population had mushroomed to nearly 400,000. It became apparent that Tampa had outgrown its Main Library, and active community support aided in the planning of a new facility.
Groundbreaking at the new location on Ashley Drive between Cass and Tyler Streets took place on April 25, 1965. Browse historic photos of the main library.
The new Tampa Public Library was dedicated April 21, 1968. It was designed to serve not only as the community's Main Library but also as headquarters for the Tampa-Hillsborough County Public Library System.
The 100,000 square foot building contained 100,000 square feet of floor space and a book capacity of 500,000 volumes. Designed by McLane, Ranon, McIntosh & Bernardo-McElvy & Jennewein at a total cost of $3.2 million, the beautiful new facility was referred to as the "Taj Mahal" and was "built to last forever".
But the Tampa community wasn't through growing, and neither was its Main Library. In less than ten years, a four-story 50,000 square foot annex was constructed. The architectural firm of McElvy, Jennewein, Stefany & Howard designed the building which featured an elevated glass walkway connecting the annex to the original facility. The addition was dedicated Sunday, May 23, 1976.
The art work "America, America" was dedicated shortly after the opening of the new annex. This is an impressive piece of public art that commands the attention of visitors today to both the Main Library as well as the Performing Arts Center.
On November 1, 1999, the Main Library was re-named to honor local attorney, former judge, civic leader and long-time library supporter John F. Germany.