The Folsom Library

Hi, thank you for checking out our new blog, Folsom Unveiled. My name is Kaitlyn Scott and I’m Folsom Historical Society’s historian. Each week I will be highlighting a different topic related to Folsom’s history that not everyone knows about by diving deeper into a place, event, person or piece in our collection.

Our last blog discussed the Folsom Institute and I figured while we were on the education train we might as well jump off and look at Folsom’s library. One, because I love libraries and two, I love the family that ran it. One of the museum’s volunteers (Hi, Spencer!) and myself have discussed how we each have a strange and inexplicable connection to different families and people in Folsom as if we are friends separated by a lot of years. One of my attachments is to the Levy family, who were responsible for Folsom’s first successful library.

Edward R. Levy and his wife Augusta Golde Levy were Jewish immigrants from Prussia who came to Folsom in 1857. Edward owned Natoma Billiards Saloon on Sutter Street and later a cigar shop. Together they had three daughters: Hattie B. Levy (m. Ward Morrison), Irma R. Levy (m. Moses Wahrhaftig) and Lotta Leona Levy.

E.R. Levy's Cigar Shop on the 700 block of Sutter

The family made their home at 516 Figueroa Street in a little house that was won in a lottery. It was owned by a man named Moses Drew who sold tickets for $2.50 each and announced that the home would be awarded after a drawing on Christmas Day in 1870. 400 tickets were sold in all and E.R. Levy was the lucky winner. In 1909, Hattie Levy Morrison with the assistance of the Sacramento Public Library, started a lending library out of this house so other residents in Folsom could enjoy free books. I have read in several newspaper articles and have been told by locals that this was Folsom’s first library, however, further research has shown me that Folsom’s first library was opened in 1868 and was a town effort.

The Levy Home

In March of 1868, a group of Folsom residents led by H.T. Knight, Mrs. A.P. Catlin (if you remember from the last blog, she was formally Ruth Donaldson and worked at the Folsom Institute), Mr. and Mrs. M. H. Eastman, Mrs. C.T. H. Palmer, Mr. Roger S. Day, Mrs. H.B. Waddilove and Mrs. G.J. Turner wrote Folsom’s first library’s by-laws. The library was opened three days a week with a membership fee and monthly dues to keep it open. It disappears from the record later in 1868 which makes the endeavor very short lived, either because of funding, space or fire.

Let’s jump back to the Levy family now. As I mentioned earlier, Hattie Levy married in 1899. Her husband was Ward E. Morrison and the pair moved to Boston and had a child, Edward. Ward’s health was poor in Boston, so the little family moved to Denver and it was there in 1903 that Ward passed away after only four years of marriage. His cause of death is not listed, however, given that the family moved to Colorado for his health, I believe it may have been because of tuberculosis. Hattie and her son moved back to Folsom where she got involved with the library.

By 1910, the little library Hattie had helped start from her home was thriving and a new location was needed. The library was moved to the Zimmerman Building, a multi-use building that also held a bakery ran by Fritz Weber and a dental office ran by W.A. Simmons. Meetings for the Women’s Improvement Club, of which Hattie was a member, were also held here.

Hattie Levy Morrison

Folsom Library in Later Years

Hattie remained Folsom’s librarian until 1920, when her son Edward moved to Berkeley to attend college. She moved to Oakland to be nearby and remained living there the rest of her life. Hattie was promptly replaced by her sister, Lotta Levy who still lived in Folsom and worked as a teacher. Lotta was fondly remembered by Folsom residents as a wonderful librarian and by Folsom Historical Society founder Artie Davies, “for her beautiful white hair”. She served as Folsom’s librarian from 1920 to 1953, when she was found unconscious at her desk and taken to Sacramento to the hospital and passed away 2 years later in the care of her sister Irma.

From L-R: Irma, Hattie and Lotta

In 1960, the library was moved to a larger building on Market Street off East Bidwell next to the county courthouse. This location ran until 1992 before it was closed due to budget cuts. The next year, the library was moved to Persifer Street, but the library soon outgrew this space and as of 2007, it was moved to its current building near city hall.

Market Street Library