History of the King Library
Inspired by aspiration, curiosity and passion for the beauty of the world, in the early 1930s three Palm Beach women set out to create something extraordinary. An announcement signed by Mrs. Maud Howe Elliott, Mrs. Lorenzo E. Woodhouse and Mrs. Frederick Johnson stated that a group of citizens had decided to form an organization to promote the appreciation of art, music, drama and literature. Mrs. Elliott was a Pulitzer Prize winning author who already had found success cultivating the appreciation of the arts in 1912 as a founding member of the Newport Artists Society. She, along with Mrs. Woodhouse and Mrs. Johnson (who were well-known artists in their own right), began the task of recruiting others to their cause, now known as The Society of the Four Arts.
To heed Mrs. Elliott’s cry for a home for the Four Arts, funds were soon raised to buy the land and erect a building (the present library) on Four Arts Plaza. Maurice Fatio and his architectural firm of Treanor and Fatio donated their services, creating a beautiful Mediterranean revival-style building with gracious archways, galleries with high ceilings and authentic pecky cypress details.
The Four Arts moved into this new building on January 8, 1938, and art exhibits, poetry readings, lectures and musical events began to take place. Passionate about literature, Mrs. Elliott made plans to start a reading room and library. Then Four Arts President Dr. Daniel J. McCarthy appointed Mrs. Elliott chairman of the committee to establish a library in Palm Beach.
On February 10, 1940, a ceremony was held opening the Library on the second floor of the building and dedicating the beautiful portrait of Mrs. Elliott, commissioned by Mrs. Woodhouse and painted by Adele Herter. This portrait now hangs behind the front desk of the Library.
The Library quickly became the center for the many cultural, civic and philanthropic events.
At the invitation of Mrs. Elliott, groups of interested people met in the Library for poetry readings. At one such meeting, Mrs. Elliott related anecdotes of her friendship and visits with Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The Four Arts Library established a completely separate children’s department and hired a professional children’s librarian in 1956. The Children’s Library later moved across the street to its present location in the Rovensky Administration Building. In 1997 the library received a generous donation from Gioconda and Joseph King, and the name of the library was changed to recognize this splendid gift.
In 2018, after eight decades, the beloved library received a dramatic restoration that enhanced the experience for all visitors to come. To see the restoration process, we invite you to visit the visit the Restoration Photo Archive.
Today, the Four Arts King Library flourishes with more than 75,000 books, audiobooks, DVDs and periodicals. A touch-screen tablet is available to help visitors browse the collection of digital books and media. Frequent book discussions, play readings and author talks attract standing-room-only crowds, and innovative teen programming is bringing in a new generation of library patrons.
The story of the King Library is one of community, enlightenment and pride.