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COLLECTING Letters to pay for expansion



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The library might sell its presidential collection.

EAST CLEVELAND (AP) -- Jimmy Carter is there. So is Abraham Lincoln, John Tyler, James Garfield and James Buchanan.

The East Cleveland Public Library has a letter and autograph collection featuring 39 U.S. presidents. It was donated to the library in 1966 and updated through the 1970s.

The collection had been stored in a safe before retired librarian Germaine Gibian reminded library director Gregory Reese of the collection six months ago. Reese was raising money for the library's expansion project.

Reese said he might sell the letters to create a new wing or foundation in the donor's name.

"We've had it under lock and key for 40 years," Reese said. "We're proud of it and we're trying to find out what to do with it."

The library board has received estimates on the collection from auction houses, including Sotheby's, which valued the collection at nearly $160,000.

Reese said he has raised about $3.8 million for the expansion project.

Adams, Garfield writings

Included in the letters are one from John Quincy Adams questioning maps of the Louisiana Purchase and another from Garfield, an Ohio native, criticizing then-President Abraham Lincoln.

"I told them I did not want Lincoln for Pres -- in the first place -- but should go for him only because I could not see how to do better," Garfield wrote in 1864 to a man named Wall.

The collection was a gift from Dorothy and John Walworth. It was originally started by Dorothy's father, Stephen Tener, a member of the first Board of Trustees in 1915.

Sotheby's found that a letter written by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello is worth as much as $30,000, making it the most valuable piece in the collection.

Gibian, 68, a friend of the Walworth family, said the Walworths were concerned about East Cleveland's history.

"I think people should be proud that their library has preserved this. It's an institution that could be trusted to keep faith with their public," she said.




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