The Titanic sank 100 years ago, killing more than 1,500 people.
Magness Library, hoping to avoid a disaster of its own, held a Titanic party recently to raise money for an electrical project. The library is hoping to raise over $20,000 to completely redo the wiring in the historic Main Street building. The Titanic party raised $5,000.
“With the fires that have destroyed parts of downtown in recent years, this is something we wanted to do,” said library board chairperson Pat Bigbee. “We have too much in our library to risk losing it to fire so we’ve decided to take the lead on this and we hope other downtown businesses follow.”
Two separate fires in 2009 and 2011 resulted in the demolition of five downtown buildings from 201 to 209 E. Main Street. The five lots are all currently vacant.
The Magness Library board says those fires have served as a “wake-up call” to take action and upgrade the library’s old wiring system. Library officials say Magness Library has received several generous bequests over the past 10 years that have facilitated several renovations, but all of those gifts would be in vain if one faulty wire results in a fire and the loss of the library.
The Titanic party was as grand as the ship itself with each guest given a boarding pass granting permission to come aboard. Around 90 guests, many dressed in elegant attire, socialized, enjoyed music from a string quartet, and ate from a menu that was inspired by the actual menu on the ship the night it sank.
“We wanted this to be as authentic as we could make it,” said Bigbee of the menu that included coconut sandwiches, seafood and lots of fruit.
Jim Dyer came dressed wearing a life preserver, while his wife, Julia, wore a spectacular dress that has been in her mother’s family for generations. “I don’t ever have an occasion to wear it, so I decided tonight would be a good time,” said Julia.
On display at the main entrance were two newspapers from 1912 detailing the sinking of the Titanic. The newspapers are owned by Thomas Fisher, whose great-grandfather was living in Chicago at the time. He saw the sinking of the Titanic as a historical event and decided to save the papers.
One paper, The Chicago Daily News from April 16, 1912, was published two days after the disaster. It’s main headline said in all caps, “TITANIC, WITH 1,341 PERSONS, LIES AT BOTTOM; ONLY 868 ARE SAVED.”
In other subheadlines it says, “ALL HOPE ABANDONED; HELP CAME TOO LATE” and “MEN OF FAME DEAD.”
Another party highlight was an art show and sale by Ann Albritton Smotherman, who grew up in Warren County. On display were 56 of her paintings that will remain on display throughout May and can be purchased.