Morehead City Library History
In 1929, Mr. Earle W. Webb, Sr., CEO of Ethyl Corporation in NYC and native Morehead City resident, began construction of a commercial building on the corner of 9th and Evans Streets in downtown Morehead City, North Carolina.
For the first few years, the Webb Building housed doctors' offices downstairs and a training facility for the local garment factory upstairs. When the upstairs noise became too much for the downstairs occupants, the garment factory left. Mrs. Webb, a member of the Morehead Woman's Club, asked her husband if the club could move its 300 book library to one of the upstairs rooms. When he agreed, the library was moved.
A few years later in 1936, the Webbs' son, Earle W. Webb, Jr., became ill and died. In honor of their son, Mr. and Mrs. Webb dedicated the building as the Earle W. Webb Jr. Memorial Library and Civic Center and opened it to all the citizens of Morehead City for community use.
Mr. Webb's generosity provided funding for the library until 2003, when the trust was no longer viable. At that time, several interested citizens petitioned the Town of Morehead City for assistance. The town council agreed to help with the day-to-day costs while a steering committee researched the level of interest in the community to maintain a library and gathering place for its citizens. The steering committee recommended that the town take over full support of the library and in 2006 the town and the library entered into a 99-year lease that would allow the town to operate and maintain the library while the Webb Family Trust would keep the building. In 2007, the city and the Webb family reached an agreement whereby the city assumed control of and responsibility for funding the library.
On Tuesday May 11, 2021 the Morehead City City Council voted to terminate the city’s lease with the Webb family trust for use of the Earle W. Webb Jr. Memorial Building which housed the city’s public library. In January 2022, the city library was moved from The Webb to the recently vacated Town of Morehead City Municipal Building, a building constructed by the city in 1926 and utilized for town purposes since that time. The building located at 202 S. 8th Street was vacated in September 2021 when staff from several city facilities moved to a newly constructed City Hall allowing a new home for the library. The name of the library was changed concurrent with the move.
The Morehead City Library now provides services for locals and visitors from all over North Carolina and beyond. The book collection has grown to over 15,000 holdings (including books, large print books, e-books, audiobooks, DVDs, CDs, and electronic devices), four public-use computers, three meeting rooms and public wi-fi access. In August 2022, the library celebrated it's 88th year of service to the public.
The Municipal Building is one of Morehead City's most distinctive landmarks and was constructed in 1926 on land transferred to the town from Charles S. and Nina W. Wallace. Earle Webb, native son and Esso Oil Company executive, financed the imposing masonry Florentine Renaissance-style building. The elegant edifice was built by Jones Brothers Builders of Wilson, North Carolina, with R. D. Gladding acting as the consulting engineer.
The two-story building is situated on the southwest comer of Evans and Eighth streets, one block north of Bogue Sound and one block south of Arendell Street, Morehead City's principal commercial corridor. A two-story firehouse with a fire engine entrance facing Evans Street was included as a rear wing of the Municipal Building. A level manicured lawn with mature landscaping softens the architectural lines of the building on the east and north sides. Several monuments are strategically placed in front of and on the north side of the building. A narrow alley runs behind the firehouse, while a large parking lot is situated on the south side of the east-facing building.
The multi-functional 1926 Municipal Building served the town as city hall, police station, and fire station until 1977
The Municipal Building exhibits many elements characteristic of the Florentine Renaissance style including a low-hipped roof with overhanging eaves, although the original exposed rafters have recently been encased. The pale-yellow masonry walls contrast with limestone trim, including quoins, molded window surrounds, a beltcourse, and ornate pediments over the primary entrances. Full-height engaged Ionic columns within an in-antis porch support a simple entablature that contains an inscribed frieze. The attached rear firehouse is also finished with stuccoed walls and limestone trim of classical design.
A monument situated at the southeast comer of the Municipal Building commemorates Irvin Fulford and Leonard Day, natives of Morehead City, who lost their lives during World War I. The marble monument, which is embellished with a fountain on two sides and three-light globes on top, was originally situated at the intersection of Arendell and Eighth streets, one block to the north. It was moved to its current location soon after the Municipal Building was completed. On the east face of the monument are the names Irvine Fulford and Leonard Day and the following inscription: "Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his country." On the west face is inscribed: "To Those Who Served, 1914-1918." Irvine Fulford belonged to the U. S. Army's Thirtieth Division and was killed on September 20, 1918, when the Hindenburg line was breached. Leonard Day was a sailor on the ill-fated warship, Cyclops, which sank in the Atlantic with all on board lost. On May 10, 1920, an unveiling ceremony took place at the monument conducted by The Daughters of the Confederacy.
American Legion Monument c.1945 A monument located at the northeast corner of the Municipal Building is dedicated “to the men and women who devotedly served their country and in loving memory of the those who made the supreme sacrifice." The granite monument was erected by the American Legion.
Flagpole and Armistice Marker c.1945 A flagpole stands on the north side of the Municipal Building. A cement block, commemorating the Armistice of both World War I and World War II, is embedded in the ground near the flagpole and is inscribed with the dates November 11, 1918 and August 14, 1945. Another cement block embedded in the ground to the east of the flagpole has an inscription that is indecipherable.
"National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
Beth Keane (April 2004). "Morehead City Municipal Building" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-08-01.