As Henrico County moved forward on its late 1960s plans to establish a library system, finding an appropriate spot for a large library for the Northside proved controversial. Disagreements revolved around the former Dumbarton Elementary School, located on Staples Mill Rd. and Penick Rd. A modern Dumbarton Elementary opened in September 1971. The old building wasn’t vacant, however: the new Hermitage High School building had its opening delayed because of a plumbers’ strike, so for at least one semester in 1971, high school students used the old elementary school. Some thought that renovating the former elementary school for use as a public library would be cost effective and that the location was a good one. But at least one board of supervisors member thought Staples Mill much too busy a road for a library, and that realizing the property’s commercial value would be more worthwhile. In the end, the plan to use the property for the library went forth. County officials declared the old part of the school unsafe and razed it in June 1973; the part closest to Penick Rd., built in 1956 — the “cafetorium” — remained and was incorporated into the new library as the Children’s Room.
Dumbarton Area Library opened for business on November 26, 1976; it was 22,500 square feet and had one meeting room that could hold 120 people. The children’s room, at 2,408 square feet, was just bigger than all of the Lakeside Library. Ben R. Johns, Jr., AIA, was the architect. The first two days saw 110 people register for new library cards. At the January 8, 1977, dedication ceremony for Dumbarton Library, Virginia Secretary of Education Robert R. Ramsey, Jr., praised the new facility for supporting an American “need to know.” Furthermore, Henrico libraries recognized our “role and potential as a center of continuing education. . . ” and so Dumbarton would be “a role model of a progressive, modern library. . . .” Ramsey called the reuse of the old Dumbarton School “the rebirth of the soul in a new body.”*
Full bibliography for this series, here.
*Ramsey, Jr., Robert R. “The Crowning Glory.” 1977. (typescript remarks from Dumbarton Area Library Dedication Day, library collection).