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Fondly recalling a city library of years past

This building at 1401 Light St. is a former Pratt Library branch now used as a venue for wedding receptions and other events.
This building at 1401 Light St. is a former Pratt Library branch now used as a venue for wedding receptions and other events. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Susan Gauvey's celebration of our city's public libraries ("Loyalty to city libraries," Feb. 12), reminded me of how the branch at 25th and St. Paul Street (now the Village Learning Place) came up repeatedly in oral histories that Morgan State University students and I conducted several years ago regarding segregated public school #115. The school, two ramschackle wooden buildings heated by pot belly stoves, was built in 1888 near where the Waverly Farmers Market now operates. The branch library was built in 1896.

For students from 115, the library was a haven, as the following memory from Dean Patricia Welch of MSU's School of Education and Urban Studies illustrates. She was a student at 115 in the post-World War II/Cold War Era.

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“You had to walk through white neighborhoods to get to [the library]. So I would come up 31st, go up the 3100 block of Barclay and come around and down Lorraine Avenue and some of those streets. And I would stand at the front of the block [where the library stood] and look to see if nobody was out. And if nobody was out, I'd run through the block — to the library. I was scared getting to the library, getting back home. But once I got there, that was like my little, my little secret place, was the library.

Jo Ann O. Robinson, Baltimore

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The writer is professor of history emerita at Morgan State University.

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