The New McHenry Library Of 1953

The McHenry Public Library had humble origins. It was originally started in 1931 by the Mother’s Club, later the McHenry Women’s Club, in a closet at the McHenry High School. This worked for about ten years, then the collection became too large for the modest closet that it was kept in. The library then moved over to the City Hall. While the space was larger, it was still essentially still just a closet. By the mid-1940s, the Library set about making itself more legitimate. The most important tasks would be things such as getting a designated building for library materials and establishing a library board. (The McHenry Public Library established its first board in 1943.) The opportunity to acquire the perfect spot of land happened in 1951, in the form of the Tesch house.

Painting of the Tesch house from the McHenry Public Library.

The Tesch house was built in the 1830s, by William Tesch and his wife. The family lived in McHenry for many years, Mrs. Tesch herself, lived there for over 80 years. The property was put up for public auction in 1951, and the city purchased it for $4,700. Sitting on the corner of Green and Main, the former residence was in an ideal location. It was a short walk from City Hall, the business district on Green Street, as well as Landmark School and the High School. The Library Board knew that it would be a difficult endeavor to get the former home into the structure that they would need for it to function as a library. They found a couple of workarounds for their funding needs.

Picture of the new library from the Sep 13, 1953 McHenry Plaindealer.

First, the Board set up some fundraisers such as dances, dinners, and general fund drives. Some of the biggest events were a card party held by the McHenry Women’s Club and a style show provided by the Toddler Shop. The American Legion post also hosted a fundraiser in October 1951. All of the help from these businesses and organizations illustrated just how much a library was seen as part of the community. Also, there was $1000 worth of taxes and fees that were still linked to the house. Two major financial donations were made to help the library pay off the property’s indebtedness.

The other major donation came in the form of time and expertise. Several local carpenters donated their trade to help make the necessary alterations to turn the Tesch house into the McHenry Public Library. On a cold January morning in 1953, a group of ten carpenters from the No. 2087 Carpenters Union, which was made up of McHenry residents worked in teams to finish most of the major work in one day. For their efforts, the library board gave the workers coffee and doughnuts. On that day alone, the carpenters were able to reinforce the first floor’s beams and posts, install insulation on the second floor and perform other general repair work as needed. The following week they were able to finish most of the major work, by patching and leveling the floors. The new building would have five rooms, which included: a main room with the adult collection, a smaller room with the children’s books, and a restroom. There was also a somewhat of a multipurpose room with a small kitchen the library board planned on using for library events. The outside was painted white, with dark green shutters and trim.

Advertisement for the fundraising event at the American Legion in the Oct 4, 1951 McHenry Plaindealer.

The open house for the new library didn’t take place until September 27, 1953, and took place at the High School. There were about 125 people who attended. Entertainment was provided by two pianists from Chicago, Marvin and Seymour Berman, as well as Warren Jones, a tenor from McHenry. The concert was arranged by the library board to thank all of those who provided money, time, and books to make the dream of a library become a reality. The location would be added on in 1963 and again in 1978. It would leave that building and move to its current location on Front Street in 1995. Since then McHenry School District 15 has used the Tesch house for some of its administrative offices.

Photograph of library with new editions in the 1970s. The building on the left is the original Tesch house.


  • “Legion Party Aids Library In Need Of More Funds.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 25 Oct 1951, 1. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Urge Tradesman To Offer Aid In Completing Library.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 23 Oct 1952, 1. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Public Pulse.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 6 Mar 1952, 9. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Tesch Residence Acquired For City Library.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 16 Apr 1951, 1. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Indebtedness On Library Site And Building Approximately $1000.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 27 Sep 1951, 1. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Library Benefits From Style Show.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 19 Mar 1953, 2. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Hold Open House At New Public Library Building Sunday Evening Preceding And Following Concert.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 24 Sep 1953, 1. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Volunteers Work To Finish Public Library.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 22 Jan 1953, 1. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “Second Benefit Will Aid Public Library.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 2 Apr 1953, 14. Web. 3 Jul 2022.
  • “McHenry.” The Marengo-Republican News. (Marengo, IL) 8 Oct 1953, 20. Web. 12 Jul 2022.
  • “Beautiful New Library Opened to Public Sunday.” The McHenry Plaindealer. (McHenry, IL) 1 Oct 1953, 1. Web. 12 Jul 2022.