The Swezey Room of Indiana History contains books, magazines, documents and other materials relating to all aspects of Indiana and local history. It may be used by patrons doing research requiring the use of Indiana materials. Books in the Swezey Room are marked with either IND or IND CIRC. The IND CIRC books may be checked out for the normal two-week period. Magazines, documents and vertical file information relating to Indiana and local history may be photocopied.
The artistic showpiece of the Indiana Room is the large stained glass window installed in the west wall. It was designed and fabricated by Mary L. Sixbey, a prize-winning stained glass artist who has worked and exhibited in this art form for over a decade. The window "The River of Knowledge" which measures 14 x 6 1/2 feet, was a gift to the library from Mrs. Sixbey and her husband, Ted. The artist chose a river for it's natural analogy to the spread of knowledge, the underlying purpose of a library. Much of the glass used is "mouth-blown" glass, custom made for the window by the freemont Glass Company of Seattle, Washington. Mouth-blown glass is a medium desirable for its interesting striations and its special qualities of light and color. The design's rock formations were crafted from "crackle glass" imported from Germany. Multiple layers of glass in the work create the illusion of depth and enrich its textural quality. The painstaking skill which is required to create such an impressive and vibrant work is evident in every detail. Mrs. Sixby worked on this piece for over two years, from its conception in the summer of 1987 to its completion and installation in December of 1989.
The elegance of the Swezey Room of Indiana History was made possible by a gift to the Tippecanoe County Public Library from Burr Swezey Jr., former chairman of the Lafayette National Bank, his wife Anne Louise and their three children, Dave, Karen and Elisabeth.
Mr. Swezey was born in 1918 at his family home at Kossuth Street and Lingle Avenue. Lafayette libraries, old and new, have featured in his life. He attended kindergarten in a building formerly at the corner of Columbia and Sixth (just one block from the current main Library) which had served as the city library from 1890 to 1901. When the Wells Memorial Library at North and Sixth opened in 1926, he became an eager and card-carrying young patron. In later years, Mr. Swezey became aware that the Wells building was much too small and that the community was in dire need of a large and modern facility. His enthusiastic support of the new library building project prompted him, in 1988 to offer a gift of $250,000 toward the building of the current Tippecanoe County Public Library at South and Seventh Street.
Believing that a public building should be more than simply utilitarian and that beauty could be gracefully integrated with function, Mr. Swezey designated $100,000 of the gift money to be spent on architectural enhancements to the Indiana History room. Of the remaining gift, $50,000 was spent on upgrading the library's lighting and ventilation system and $100,000 was placed in a trust to be used for the purchase of books and related materials. The room is named in honor of the Swezey family.
The Swezey Room was designed by two local architects, Harry L. Mohler and Kent Schuette. The room features beautiful walnut bookshelves, cornices, ceiling beams, and mantelpiece, all made of wood custom-milled by the Waynedale Lumber Company of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The various architectural details were carefully chosen to echo similar uses of wood crafting in other historic Lafayette buildings, such as the county courthouse and the historical museum. Craftsmen from the Sims Painting Company of Indianapolis did the wood finishing work and carpenters of the H.G. Christman Company of South Bend did the final assembly and installation. The Swezey Room furniture, made of solid oak and stained to match the walnut bookshelves, was manufactured by the Worden Company. The room's overall effect is an atmosphere of quiet warmth and dignified beauty that enhances the pleasures of reading and research.
The Swezey Room of Indiana History contains approximately 2500 books and other materials concerning all aspects of Indiana history including religious, governmental, educational, natural, architectural, literary, and biographical. It houses books by and about James Whitcomb Riley, Indiana high school and college basketball, Indiana in the Civil War and Indiana quilts. There are histories of Lafayette and state travel guides. It also includes Purdue and Tippecanoe County high school yearbooks. The genealogy collection is also housed in the room.