Seabrook Branch Library, 1921-1950s

Seabrook Branch Library, 1921-1950s

Founding and History before Harris County Public Library

The Seabrook Branch Library traces its founding to over two decades before the Harris County Public Library was created.  Olive Elliott Wiltsie founded the Seabrook Library in 1900.  Wiltsie began collecting books for her children to read, and friends and neighbors soon came to her to borrow books.  Wiltsie ran the library out of her home on Meyer Street for several years. 
The Seabrook Library Guild was established in 1906, and the library moved from the Wiltsie home to a vacant room in the local school.  Eventually, as the school was reluctant to house the library long-term, Wiltsie and her husband began fundraising for a library building.  Community members could purchase life memberships for $5, and through dances, parties, and cake sales, $1,400 was raised.  The library was built in 1911, totaling 2,000 square feet, and included colored glass windows.   
Wiltsie served as the librarian until 1916.

Joining Harris County Public Library in 1921


The Seabrook Library joined the new Harris County Public Library system in 1921, one of the 26 initial library locations.  Circulation at the branch fluctuated over the next decade, with a high of 2,775 books checked out in 1924.  During this time, HCPL expanded to over 70 locations, most in schools or local businesses.  Seabrook Library was one of a handful of branches with a dedicated library building. 
By the 1930s, circulation at the branch regularly exceeded 2,000 yearly, with steady increases each year.  During the summer, school library collections were closed, and the books and communities were transferred to branches like the Seabrook Library.  
In 1938, HCPL paid for a librarian "custodian" to help the location maintain regular hours and supervise the collection.  The following year, the library moved into the community hall.  The community hall offered a more comfortable space for visitors and made the library more accessible to school children.  Circulation remained strong at the new location, with 4,926 books checked out in 1941.

The 1943 "Surprise" Hurricane

On July 27, 1943, a surprise hurricane landed on the Gulf Coast.  In the days before the storm landed, the public was unaware of the approaching danger.  Due to concerns about German U-boat activity in the Gulf of Mexico, all ship radio broadcasts were silenced - including urgent weather reports.  Local newspapers shared what they could about the developing storm starting on July 26, but its intensity was not apparent until shortly before landfall on the afternoon of July 27.  By the time the alert went out in the afternoon newspapers, it was too late - the hurricane had arrived.
The storm caused severe damage to the Seabrook community.  The community building that housed the library suffered greatly, and the book collection was moved to the school.  The library remained popular in the community, with 5,168 books checked out in 1944.

Closure and Later Years


The last year of recorded statistics for the branch was 1946, with 4,775 books checked out.   Around 1947, the collection at the school was removed, and the community was placed on the bookmobile route instead.  

In the late 1950s, the City of Houston moved to annex unincorporated parts of Harris County, including Seabrook and other small communities along the bay.  To remain independent of Houston, Seabrook residents voted to incorporate in October 1961; of the 211 votes cast, 198 were for incorporation, and the City of Seabrook was born. 


Around this time, bookmobile service was discontinued.


1924 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Mrs. Olive E. Wiltsie, 87, who founded Seabrook Library, taken by death, From HCPL Scrapbook (1934-1937)

County Library schedules will change this week, From HCPL Scrapbook (1934-1937)

1938 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1939 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1941 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1943 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1944 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1946 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1949 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Seabook library service suggested, From Evelyn Meador Branch Library Scrapbook


Further Reading on the History of Seabrook


McClennen, David. (March 31, 2021). The History of Seabrook: A Guide to Where We've Been From Here and Now. (Accessed May 27, 2024)

US Department of Commerce, NOAA. “The 1943 'Surprise' Hurricane.National Weather Service, NOAA’s National Weather Service.