5 Years Ago, Fire Almost Took Down Public Library

 One of the murals in the Children's Reading Room depicts national anthem author Francis Scott Key reading the Georgetowner newspaper.
Robert Devaney
One of the murals in the Children's Reading Room depicts national anthem author Francis Scott Key reading the Georgetowner newspaper.

During lunchtime on April 30, 2007, a fire nearly destroyed the Georgetown Public Library at R Street and Wisconsin Avenue. The flames of the collapsing cupola and roof attracted neighbors and news crews, as the D.C. Fire & EMS Department struggled with low-pressure hydrants and used one blocks away.

That same morning, a fire had swept through Eastern Market, one of Capitol Hill's most popular food, shopping and meeting spots. Stunned city officials and residents feared the two places would never completely recover.

Today, both buildings have been re-built and made even better -- thanks first to the firefighters of Washington, D.C. The library and its Peabody Room are a source of information as well as pride for its neighbors.

Georgetowners, thinking they had lost the history that is contained in the library's Peabody Room, were relieved to learn that almost all items had been saved. The collection houses books, photographs, maps, manuscripts, newspapers, artwork and artifacts documenting Georgetown's two-and-a-half centuries.

Here is what Jerry McCoy, Special Collections Librarian, Peabody Room, has to say:

"Today is the fifth anniversary of the Georgetown Branch Library fire. The fire destroyed two-thirds of the second floor of the library. The remaining one-quarter was the Peabody Room. Had it not been for the professionalism of the D.C. Fire & EMS Department more than 250 years of Georgetown's history would have been lost."

Named in honor of 19th century merchant, banker and philanthropist George Peabody (1795-1869) and established in 1935, the Peabody Room is a special collections section of the Georgetown Public Library. The Peabody Room is open Monday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm; Thursday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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Fri, 31 Oct 2014 09:30:09 -0400

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