The Gann Memorial (1946 – 1967)
In 1946, Dr. Dewell Gann, Jr and his wife Agnes Baum Gann deeded the Gann building to the City of Benton to be used for “Library Purposes.” The younger Dr. Gann and his wife signed the deed on April 19, 1946. The tiny three-room medical office is a unique landmark, having walls made of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is derived. Dr. Gann, Jr made some big improvements to the building before it could be used as a library.
Dr. Gann Jr “modernized” the building. In addition to plumbing and electric lights, He added a 24’ by 45’ reading room, now the Williams Gallery, which surrounds the back of the original structure. The expansion was built using concrete blocks, not bauxite. Presumably, this is when the front room of the Gann building was converted from two separate waiting rooms to a single room. Mrs. Ella Daugherty, the librarian at the time, had her office in the front room. On March 21, 1948, the Gann Memorial Library was officially dedicated.
After giving a speech, Dr. Gann Jr, and his wife presented the deed to Henry Finkbeiner, then Mayor of Benton. In 1948, the Gann Memorial Library was one of four in the state to be recognized as an accredited children’s library. The others were in Little Rock, Fort Smith, and Pine Bluff. Even as a library the Gann had a collection of museum artifacts belonging to the Gann family, such as the late Dr. Gann’s office furniture, his golden cane, and even his stovepipe top hat. In 1948, the library contained 3,551 adult books and 1,391 juvenile books. The library’s total circulation in 1948 was 22, 535 volumes of which 1,890 were rentals.
The library continued to grow and by the late 1960’s a bigger space was needed. The former Palace Theater building on West South Street was deeded to the Saline County Public Library Association in 1964 which undertook remodeling of the building. The newly named Saline County Library was dedicated on October 15, 1967. The Gann building was used to house the library’s rare books and extensive reference collection. In 1980, the Gann Museum was founded, which was privately run until it was allowed to merge with the library.