Former Piqua Library Building is Shown on Old Postcard
By Judy Deeter
PIQUA - Old postcards tell stories of long-ago people and places. Such is the case of the postcard seen here with a picture of the Schmidlapp Free School Library on the front side and the faded words “Schmidlapp School Library." The building still stands at 509 N. Main St. in Piqua.
The postcard was created by George Worley of Piqua, but the words “Made in Germany” are also printed on it. It was never mailed and has no post mark date. It does, however, have a place for a one cent stamp to be placed. It is what is known as a “penny postcard.”
Penny postcards were used in the United States between 1898 and 1951, except for the years 1917-1919 (during World War I) and 1925-1928 when the price was two cents. Local researchers, therefore, believe this postcard was probably created in the first half of the 20th century.
Though the postcard has the words “Schmidlapp School Library” printed on the front, one can see in the picture that words carved in the stone on the building say “Schmidlapp Free School Library.” The words are above the second-floor windows on the right side of the building.
The building was originally a family grocery (and home) owned by Jacob Adam and Sophia/Sophie (Haug) Schmidlapp. Historical records say that Schmidlapp opened the grocery store in the 1830s, probably between 1832 and 1837.
The Schmidlapps were the parents of four boys: Charles, Theodore, Jacob Godfrey and Ludwig (known as Louie). Jacob and Sophie Schmidlapp are believed to have immigrated to the United States from Germany. Jacob is believed to have been born in 1812 and Sophie in 1818. Jacob was probably in his early twenties when he started the grocery.
When the Schmidlapp boys became men, Charles, Ludwig and Jacob Godfrey moved from Piqua to Cincinnati while Theodore remained in Piqua.
The story of Jacob is particularly interesting. He left Piqua in 1874 and first moved to Memphis, Tennessee and then to Cincinnati in 1874. In Cincinnati, he became quite wealthy in the beverage distilling business. One story tells of his purchase of a 50-room house; another refers to him as a millionaire. An online article by the Walnut Hills Historical Society (see HERE) describes his tremendous wealth and his philanthropic efforts. He resided in the Cincinnati suburb of Walnut Hills.
In 1889, Jacob donated his family’s grocery store building to the Piqua school board to be used as a library. Along with the building and ground, he gave a gift of $2,500 for building-alterations so it could be used as a library.
The book AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PQUA by James C. Oda says, “The store front was remodeled into a Richardson Romanesque façade of red Michigan sandstone using the designs of J.W. Yost.” Oda says that the contractor for the building was John Anderson. (NOTE: J.W. Yost was Columbus, Ohio architect Joseph W. Yost. He also designed the Fort Piqua Plaza Hotel, the Miami County Courthouse, and the Edwards School in Troy.)
The Schmidlapp Free School Library was also open for public use. It first opened on Oct. 18, 1890; a formal opening was held on October 30, 1890. Materials and funds to be used in library operation were collected by Piqua School Superintendent C. W. Bennett. School board members provided lists for the selection of books. Employees were immediately hired to operate the library. James C. Oda wrote in his book, “The Piqua Board of Education hired Sue E. Hetherington in 1890 as the first librarian at a salary of $25 per month….Bertha Carson became the library’s second employee when she was hired in 1893 at a salary of seventy-five cents per afternoon and evening.”
In the coming years, Schmidlapp continued to support the library. In 1898, he bought a retail store next to the library so the building could be expanded. The expansion building was designed by architect C.A. Thompson. An article by Pat Best in the publication PIQUA BICENTENNIAL 1807-2007 says, “In 1906, he (Schmidlapp) donated $500 in Piqua National Bank stock to accumulate until the principal and interest reached $5,000.”
The library remained in the building until 1931 when it moved to the former Piqua Club at 124 W. Greene St. The Piqua Club building was donated to the library by Leo M. Flesh and the library name was renamed the Flesh Public Library in his honor.
For a number of years, the building was used as a museum by the Piqua Ohio Historical Society. It was open as a museum until about 2008. The Piqua Historical Society is currently located at the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency, 9845 N. Hardin Rd. Telephone (937) 773-2522 for information about the society.
The Schmidlapp Free School Library is now an events venue site that can be rented for meetings, weddings and parties. For information about using the building see the website www.sfslpiqua.com or call (937) 603-1705.
For further information about this story, contact The Troy Historical Society by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 339-5900.