Library History

The Birth & Growth of a Library

Photograph of the Columbia County Rural Library taken in 2014

A welcoming brick building featuring art deco style ceiling tiles and romanesque arched windows, the Dayton Memorial Library is a testament to the dedication and love of the many people who helped to make a library in Columbia County a reality.

The idea of a library in Dayton began as the vision of Elizabeth Forrest-Day, the wife of the first plat-owner in what was to become Dayton. The Draper Self-Culture Club decided they wanted to establish a reading room in Dayton. Members of this women’s self-improvement club believed that a public library was essential to improving the quality of life of area citizens. Initially, two rooms were rented in the Ankeny Building (now the State Farm Insurance Building on First & Main St.), and the Draper Club purchased magazine subscriptions for it. As public interest increased, they decided to pursue the goal of creating a library in Dayton.

Fundraising began at the end of 1919 and included: bazaars, teas, card parties, carnivals, and a minstrel show. Within 6 months enough money had been raised to purchase a lot on the corner of 3rd Street and Clay. They did not yet have enough to begin building, however. In 1927, funds were secured for reading rooms at the Odd Fellows Hall (also known as the Fraternity Building), and the Draper ladies worked to catalogue donated books and to work in the Reading Room. The ladies of the Draper club, impatient to have the library underway, opened the Reading Rooms to the pubic.

Over the course of many years, the members of the Draper Club — re-named the Elizabeth Forrest-Day Club in 1925 — pursued various means of fundraising. By the 1930s public interest for the establishment of a library was beginning to wane. In 1933, the tireless E.F.D. Club considered the option of turning the lot deed and the monies in the Library Fund over to the City. In doing so, they could attain the necessary grant funding for labor to begin building. In 1935, the City Council of Dayton voted to accept the lot and monies accrued by the Elizabeth Forrest-Day Club, and construction began on the library building.

The Dayton Memorial Library was built as a Public Works Project, and finished in 1937. The Governor of Washington, Clarence Martin, personally endorsed the project and sent $5,000 in support. The Library doors were opened to the public that October 2, 1937. The Columbia County Rural Library District was formed in 2005 as a way to provide stable library funding; before this point the library was funded exclusively by city tax dollars. An original portrait painting of Elizabeth Forrest-Day hangs in the library today to honor her work toward making this community resource a reality.

In 1942 the Dayton residents realized they needed a community room of some kind where people could go to visit, ‘sit a spell,’ and use for meetings. Later, Henry and Alice Delany — a Tucannon-area farming couple — willed a trust fund for the creation of such a building. Construction of an L-shaped, 2-story addition to the library began in 1970 and was completed in 1974, thereafter named the Henry Delany Memorial Building.

Today the first floor of the Delany building – commonly referred to as the Delany Room – is a large, open concept meeting room with access to a kitchenette, ADA accessible bathrooms, and projector & whitescreen. Additionally, portable tables and chairs are available for groups to use and re-arrange as they please. It is often used for library events and community group meetings, and reservations are free to the public. The Delany Room is one of the most valued resources in Dayton!