Stephen F. Austin State University

Chamber of Commerce

213 W. Austin, Marshall

Current Owner 2013: City of Marshall

TX Historical Landmark

The Chamber of Commerce building recieved a TX Historical Marker in 1979, in honor of the Library Movement in Marshall, TX.

Architectural Survey

Architectural Survey

• Description: The Chamber of Commerce building is a brick 2-story, Colonial Revival structure. The paneled double- door entrance is capped by a decorative triangle pediment and portrays a few Georgian stylistic elements seen in the row of rectangular panes of glass beneath the crown. Similar to other Colonial Revival structures the front facade shows twelve 9/9 windows symmetrically balanced. Another Georgian techinique is noticable in the tooth-like dentils that make up the decorative molding underneath the roofe line.

• Significance: This structure housed the first library in Harrison County, and symbolizes the library movement in Marshall.

Historical Background

Designed by Houston architect J.W. Northrup, Jr., the old Marshall library was completed in 1926. Although the building site was purchased in 1902, it took 24 years to raise enough money to complete the structure. After the site was purchased, the trustees approached the Carnegie Foundation for a construction grant only to be met by a condition which was deemed unacceptable to the women of the library movement: the library would have to be open to all races, which in Marshall meant a black majority. (Library Movement File, Harrison County Archives). Therefore, the offer of the Carnegie Foundation's assistance was declined in favor of continuing to operate their library as a private institution. This resulted in many fund raising ventures over the next two decades before enough funds were procured.

The old Marshall Library began in 1887 as the Ingleside Circulating Book Club. The Federation's first meeting was held in 1899 in the Capitol Hotel, and their first activity was a book reception in which all guests donated a book to the collection that became the nucleus of the Marshall library. After obtaining a charter in 1902, to provide support for an official sanctioned library, the federation met for several years above a downtown feed store, until they moved to the basement of the City Hall in 1905. (Library Movement File, Harrison County Historical Archives) The library remained there until 1923, when fire destroyed City Hall. Only 750 books were salvaged from the collection of 3,000. These volumes were moved to the west balcony in the Perkins Dry Goods Store, then occupying the lower floor of the Capitol Hotel structure, and remained there until 1926, when the Federation's new building was completed. Once their goal was achieved, the Ingleside Club converted to a study club in 1926, and in 1937 upon their 50th anniversary, the club joined the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs.
The ground floor of the library housed the book collection, along with a reference room, a children's room and a work room. Floor to ceiling windows admitted light throughout the building on both floors. The second room was a large flat-floor auditorium and stage, which also included a tea room, a kitchen, and a club room. Entrance to this floor was by an outside staircase. During WW II, the Red Cross used the auditorium for a sewing and bandage rolling room.
In 1970, the city voted to build a new public library department, to increase size, which once again began a series of fund raisers for a new building, and in 1971 the Marshall Library Association presented the keys of the old library to the City of Marshall. The new library, at its present location, was completed in 1927 and the Chamber of Commerce moved into the building in 1975. The Chamber, established in 1919, remained in the building until the spring of 2012, when it moved into the Visual Arts Center, due to lack of funds for upkeep. Although the building is presently empty, it remains as a symbol of the library movement within Marshall.

Chamber of Commerce Photos