Eleanor Squire Library is named in honor of the late Eleanor Seymour Squire whose personal collection of 150 gardening books inspired the founding of the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland. The books were first housed at the Cleveland Museum of Art. After raising money from a French Street Fair, an unused stone boathouse in the fine arts garden near Wade Lagoon was renovated and the new Garden Center officially opened on December 4, 1930, the first urban garden center in the country.
Although always open to the public, the library was initially planned as a reference center but in 1937 a lending collection was established for members. A librarian was hired in 1938, in the midst of expansion that moved the library from the top floor to larger quarters on the ground floor. Within the first decade, the library increased to 1,700 books, all donations.
Prompted partially by flash floods that caused major damage to the library, in 1966 the Center moved a short distance north to its present location. The new building of the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland included the library, with funds for construction and decoration given by the Shaker Lakes Garden Club. By its 60th anniversary, the library’s collection had expanded to over 14,000 books and over 200 periodicals. Today, with nearly 17,000 volumes, it is one of the largest circulating and popular gardening libraries in the country.
The original collection of rare books grew significantly in the late sixties when Warren Corning donated a major portion of his “Collection of Horticultural Classics” to the Garden. In the early 2000s, a gift of nearly 200 books on wildflowers from Thomas Urban enhanced the scope and value of the collection. There are now 2,000 volumes from 1491 to the 1970’s in a climate-control environment.