COSSITT LIBRARY  .  Memphis, Tennessee  .  7" x 9" x 4" tall







Cossitt Library opened in 1893 and was the first public library in Memphis.  Funds were donated by Frederick H. Cossitt, who wanted to thank the city for its hospitality by building a library.  Unfortunately he died in 1887 before this happened, but his daughters honored their father's pledge and donated $75,000 to be placed in trust until plans for the library could be completed. Memphis agreed to provide the lot and the working expenses and awarded Atlanta architect L. B. Wheeler the contract for the building. The lot was perfect - a choice view lot on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  Working with the small $75,000 budget, Wheeler created a small but very impressive Romanesque monument like nothing else ever seen in Memphis. It was a masterpiece, with it's red sandstone turret towering above the Memphis skyline.

Memphians fell in love with the grand building. During the next 25 years it became a major landmark and the most photographed building in the city, appearing on more postcards than any other landmark.  

From it's opening up to 1925, the library lot was virtually void of landscaping.  There were a few scattered trees toward the back of the building and several shrubs-trees lined the border next to the Customs House.  In 1924-25 the city added an extension to the back of the library which more than doubled the building size.  At this time, the library lot was beautifully landscaped.  In 1958, there was another unfortunate renovation.  This time the city declared the sturdy fortress "unstable" and demolished the masterpiece entirely except for that 1924 back addition.  And they replaced the grand original building with an unfortunate modern box without any redeeming qualities.  The whole corner is now a disgrace. The original Cossitt Library was one of the most beautiful public buildings in Memphis.  The 1958 building is one of the ugliest. 

Artist Gene Gill lived in Memphis for his first 21 years, and like all Memphians was very fond of the grand old Cossitt.  This miniature is the first he has built of a building that is no longer in existence.  He chose to build it as it originally was around 1900 - before any additions or alterations.  Minor exceptions were taken for the landscaping, simply for aesthetic reasons.