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Cossitt Branch Library
Address: 33 South Front Street, Memphis TN 38103
Hours: Monday through Friday 10-5, Closed Saturday and Sunday
Holiday Closings for all Memphis Public Library & Information Center libraries can be found here.
The Cossitt Branch is located at 33 S. Front St. For information about other nearby library locations, call LINC at 415-2700, or visit the library locations web page.
Cossitt Branch Library began its existence in 1888 as the Cossitt-Goodwyn Institute, the first public library in the fledgling city of Memphis. Located on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, the Cossitt Branch serves a growing population in the midst of a downtown renaissance. The original sandstone structure was constructed in 1893, and the current building was added in 1959.
Cossitt Branch Library is located in historic Downtown Memphis and often serves as a "first stop" for tourists, both foreign and domestic.
For more information on happenings and developments in Downtown Memphis, visit the Memphis Center City Commission. The Cossitt staff is also eager to provide visitor information, directions, and recommendations on attractions and sites of interest. Check us out -- you'll get a warm welcome!
The current Cossitt Library serves the needs of the downtown community by providing a wide selection of Popular Library books, "Hot" current release movies, and an expanding African-American fiction collection. It is also the site for the Cossitt Art Gallery, which provides a marvelous setting for exhibiting a wide array of artistic styles and media.
Cossitt Branch Library began its existence as the Cossitt/Goodwyn Institute.
Frederick H. Cossitt, a native of Connecticut, opened a wholesale dry goods business in Memphis. He was very successful and moved on to New York. He kept friends in Memphis and visited often.
He mentioned to Carrington Mason, a business associate, his intention to make a substantial gift for the City of Memphis. It was agreed that a Public Library was needed.
About that time, Mr. Cossitt made a trip to Europe. On this trip, he subsequently became ill and died. He did not mention the gift of a Library in his will. There was only his correspondence and a note stating his intent to give a library to Memphis.
The correspondence and note, of course, were not legally binding. However, his daughters wanted to honor their father's pledge and plan. Helen Cossitt Julliard, May Cossitt Dodge, and Mr. Thomas Stokes, each gave $25,000 towards the establishment of the new Public Library in Memphis. Mr. Cossitt also left a list of Memphis businessmen of whom he wished to administer the proposed library. On March 8, 1888, the entire $75,000 was delivered to the businessmen and placed in a trust until plans for a public library were completed.
Under the leadership of these select businessmen, a charter was granted by the State of Tennessee on April 6, 1888, under the corporate name of Cossitt Library. It was further decided that the entire $75,000 from the gift should be put into the library building. The City of Memphis promised to furnish "working expenses" for the library and provided a lot overlooking the Mississippi River at the corner of Front Street and Monroe Avenue. Architects were invited to submit designs, and from these Mr. L. B. Wheeler of Atlanta was awarded the contract for the building.
Four years later, on April 12, 1893, the handsome red sandstone building was dedicated. It was Romanesque in style, with rounded wings, towering turrets, and gables. (Cossitt facts excerpted from Mary Davant's book, Cossitt Library, 1888-1959).
The Tennessee Library Association bestowed its first Literary Landmark status to the branch in 1998, and honored it with a plaque.
Read more about the history and development of the Cossitt Library! Materials can be found in the History Department's Memphis Room located at the Central Library. For more information, call 415-2742.
Ten computers for browsing the Internet (including email), accessing information online, or for use with word processing etc. are available for public use. See the Internet Use Policy and the Computer Assistance Policy for more information.
Cossitt Library is also an important stop for African American materials. The African-American collection at the Cossitt Branch covers a wide variety of books and includes representative works from such authors as:
... just to name but a few authors. Check out this important collection today!
A meeting room seating 100 people is available, call 526-1712 for more information.
Items for Sale at Check-Out Desk
The Check-Out Desk at each library has a handy "store" of useful items for sale.
- Libraries of the Memphis Public Library & Information Center
- Cornelia Crenshaw Branch Library
- East Shelby
- Gaston Park
- Parkway Village
- Poplar-White Station
- Map of Library Locations