First known as the Chapter House, the Hart Memorial Library was erected about 1910 as the meeting place for the Kissimmee Chapter of the American Woman’s League (A.W.L.) and the local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.).
Catherine “Kate” S. Hart, widow of former Governor Ossian B. Hart, moved to Kissimmee in 1884 and was postmistress for several years. Catherine had purchased lots in Kissimmee, one of which she donated to the Presbyterian Church. A small cottage was erected on the other, where Catherine lived. When her health deteriorated, she moved to Morristown, N.J., where she died on Oct. 9, 1897. Catherine’s Campbell sisters were in charge of disposing of her property in Kissimmee.
The A.W.L. had been organized in April 1909 in a meeting at the Graystone Hotel. In order for a Chapter House to be erected, a membership of 15 was necessary. That goal was met and the Campbell sisters donated two of Catherine’s lots, which were adjacent to the business section of Kissimmee. The sisters decided that the chapter house erected should serve as a memorial to their sister, Mrs. Catherine S. Hart. It was also decided that the chapter house should serve as a home for the local W.C.T.U., which was originally organized by Catherine.
Soon after the lots were acquired, membership in the A.W.L. increased to over 40 members, thus qualifying them for a much larger chapter house than they had hoped for. They were chartered as the Hart Memorial Chapter of the American Women’s League.
According to “The River of the Long Water” by Alma Hetherington – a promoter was employed by 21 of the city’s most prominent women who contributed $52 each. The promoter solicited funds from the citizenry for the erection of the building. After the death of her husband, Nelson Fell in 1916, Arthur E. Donegan, Osceola County clerk, convinced Mrs. Annie Palmer Fell to give to this organization the books and furnishings of the large library she had maintained in Narcoossee. Officers of the Hart Memorial Library were chosen and the first librarian was Mrs. H.C. Stanford.
As Kissimmee grew, so did the needs of the library. The Public Library of Kissimmee moved from the original location to a new 4,000 square foot space at the corner of Broadway and Dakin in 1968, and in 1994 relocated to its current location near the Civic Center, and is the Hart Memorial Central branch of the Osceola County Library System.
Sources: “Kissimmee Valley Gazette”; Osceola County Library website.
Photo Courtesy: Kissimmee Valley Gazette, Florida Memory