Where Rochelle’s fish used to spend their winters

When I first started working at the library almost 20 years ago as a part-time clerk, we would have classes come and tour the library at the end of May to get students prepared for our summer reading program.

One of the stories that I shared with the classes is one that I think is fascinating for a small town library like ours.

First, a little background. A $10,000 Carnegie Grant funded the original library building, which was built in 1912. The architectural firm of Claude and Starck from Madison, Wisconsin designed the original library building.

Louis W. Claude worked for two years in the Chicago firm of Adler and Sullivan during the period Frank Lloyd Wright and George G. Elmslie worked in the Sullivan firm.  The Flagg Township Library, built through the generosity of Andrew Carnegie, held its grand opening in the spring of 1913. 

Early photographs of the library show a handsome fishpond on the front lawn. When Betty Neal began work at the library as director from 1948-1974, she found a hole in the floor of the library.

It was explained that the hole had been for the pipe of the indoor fish tank. When the weather became cold, the fish would be brought inside the building. Local people also brought their fish to “winter” in the library. 

Neal also found a drawer full of half-empty boxes of fish food. The fish owners provided the food for their pets. No one remembers how the owners would be able to identify their own fish when spring came and it was time to take them out again. 

The fish tank, located in a space between the floor and the lower ceiling, is still an unseen part of the building today.

Come to the library and visit us. You can’t see a hole in the floor, but you can learn more local history, get a library card, checkout our books, media, music, comics, graphic novels, Hoopla and E-Read Illinois.

See what your library card can do.


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