Evelyn Meador Branch Library
The first Harris County Public Library branch in Seabrook was founded in 1921. The small collection of books in the Seabrook School circulated well, with the number of books checked out doubling between 1923 and 1924. In the early 1930s, the community built a standalone library building (seen here). Circulation continued to grow through the Great Depression.
On July 27, 1943, a surprise hurricane made landfall on the Gulf Coast. The storm caused severe damage to the Seabrook community. The library building suffered greatly, and the book collection was moved to the school.
Around 1947, the collection at the school was removed, and the community was placed on the bookmobile route instead. This service continued until the 1950s.
In the late 1950s, the City of Houston made moves to annex unincorporated parts of Harris County, which included Seabrook and other small communities along the bay. In order to remain independent of Houston, Seabrook residents voted to incorporate in October 1961; of the 212 votes cast, 198 were for incorporation, and the City of Seabrook was born.
The small seaside community of houseboats soon experienced a significant population increase with the construction of the Manned Spacecraft Center in southeast Harris County. Shopping centers popped up, and Seabrook City Hall was dedicated in 1966.
In August 1970, a library study committee in Seabrook recommended the city begin offering limited library service at the Miramar Shopping Center in partnership with HCPL. The nearest libraries were the La Porte Library, part of HCPL, and the Freeman Memorial Library in Clear Lake, which at the time was independent of the HCPL system.
In June 1985, five interested Seabrook residents, including real estate developer Rex Meador and his wife Evelyn Meador, met with Harris County Commissioner Jim Fonteno to discuss building a library for the Seabrook community.
The Meadors had donated 21 acres of land to the City of Seabrook in 1983. The land was specified to be used for parks, playgrounds, and other facilities that Seabrook children could enjoy. After some negotiation, the City of Seabrook donated five of those acres to Harris County for a new library.
The Seabrook Friends of the Library soon formed to help raise funds for the new building. The County agreed that the building would be a minimum of 5,000 square feet and earmarked funds from a 1982 bond fund to begin construction. Rex and Evelyn Meador (second from left and center) are seen here with the President of the Seabrook Friends of the Library, Jim Hargrove (second from the right), accepting donations for the library fund.
In October 1985, the Friends of the Library surprised Evelyn Meador with the news that the new library would be named for her.
On January 18, 1986, the ground was broken for the new library building. The cake for the groundbreaking featured a construction hat.
The Friends sponsored an essay contest for school children titled "Why I would like to have a library in Seabrook." The first prize was a cash gift of $25. The Friends also held regular book sales at the Miramar Shopping Center (which was developed by Rex Meador).
Seen here is the floor plan for the Evelyn Meador Library. The architect, Richard Ainslie of Ainslie and Associates, was a Seabrook resident.
During the summer of 1987, as construction on the building continued, the HCPL Bookmobile visited the community every other Monday at Seabrook Intermediate School. The Summer Reading Program theme that year was Animal Antics.
The library opened on Sunday, June 26, 1988, with a dedication ceremony in the afternoon.
Photographs from the grand opening: families exploring the children's area and checking out materials.
The 7,200 square foot branch held 21,000 volumes. Cheryl Minard was the Branch Librarian.
By September 1988, the branch was one of the most used facilities in Harris County.
That same month the branch closed to prepare for Hurricane Gilbert, and the City of Seabrook was evacuated. Luckily, the branch suffered no damage.
On January 30, 1989, the Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library held their annual meeting. Several local authors were present to discuss their work, including Pultizer Prize nominee Lionel Garcia, Tom Townsend, and Ken Grissom of the Houston Post.
In April 1989, Rex Meador pledged to give the Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library $25,000 to help pay off their debt to the county.
Evelyn Meador passed away from cancer on May 30, 1989. Harris County Judge Jon Lindsay sent a personal letter of condolences to Rex, and $1,000 was donated in her name to the library.
That August, Hurricane Chantal hit Seabrook. Rain blew in under the door of the library, soaking the carpet. For two days, the building was without electricity or working phone lines.
In March 1990, heavy winds blew more water into the building causing more wet carpet.
In June, two flags donated to the library in 1988 were finally raised on flag poles outside the branch. The American and Texas flags were presented by the Bay Area Republican Women. Unfortunately, the building had opened without any flagpoles, so the ceremony was delayed until Seabrook officials and residents raised the funds needed to construct two flagpoles.
On October 18 1994, Rex Meador passed away.
Portraits of Rex and Evelyn Meador hang side by side in the branch.
In 2001, the Houston Chronicle wrote an article about the Meadors. Part of the land donation from 1983 was turned into Rex Meador Park. The Houston Chronicle did a further profile on Evelyn Meador in 2002, ahead of the 14th anniversary of the opening of the branch.
Around the same time, Seabrook residents and the Merchant and Tourism Association began a new program to boost community spirit and attract tourists. The planners appreciated "critter" themed public art installations in other cities, and soon the pelican was selected to represent Seabrook. Customized pelicans soon popped up outside of local businesses and organizations.
The Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library commissioned a pelican for the library. Pearl the Pelican, designed by artist Rosanne Frazier, was installed in 2005.
To learn more about the Seabrook Pelicans and see a map of all 40+ pelicans currently on display, visit http://www.seabrookpelicans.com/
In this photograph from February 2006, the "Papasan Crew" reads in the children's area after school.
The exterior of the branch in March 2007.
By the late 2000s, the County made plans to construct a new 20,000 square foot building for the community. The population Seabrook had nearly doubled since the late 1980s, and the original building was undersized for its patron traffic. The intention was to keep the existing building open until the new project was complete.
However, in September 2008, the existing library was damaged by storm winds and water from Hurricane Ike. The building received about two inches of water inside, ruining the carpets and drywall. For the building to reopen safely, significant repairs to the roof and restrooms would have been needed.
Faced with the expense of the repair work, the County decided to proceed only with constructing the new building. However, it would be nearly three years before the new building would open. Seabrook residents relied upon the La Porte Branch Library and Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library during that time.
The existing 55,000 books survived with minimal damage and were safely removed and stored while the branch was closed.
Photo credit: NOAA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The design for the new building was unveiled on October 6, 2009. Lynn Hall Edmundson, the daughter of Evelyn and Rex Meador, spoke at the ceremony.
The new building would feature a computer lab, a young adult area, a parents' room, and a bookstore for the Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library. The $6 million project was funded by Harris County and the City of Seabrook.
The existing facility was soon torn down; the new building would be constructed on the same site.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new library building was held on February 19, 2010. Seen here are the groundbreaking: Lynn Hall Edmundson, Seabrook Mayor Gary Renola, Friends of the Library President Marianne Kolar, County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia, and HCPL Director Rhoda Goldberg.
Construction continued from 2010-2011.
Interior construction from 2010 (top) and March 2011 (bottom).
The grand opening of the new building was on June 28, 2011. The new facility is a hurricane-resistant green space. A wall of windows overlooking the Rex Meador Park provides lots of natural light during the day; the windows are protected during storms by roll-down hurricane shutters.
Built at a higher elevation than the old building, the facility includes water-conscious landscaping and storm drains in the parking lot to prevent flooding.
The library is a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certified building.
Seabrook children could once again sit back and read a book in their library.
The building featured a new mural in the Children's Department painted by Pat Rawlings and Faisal Ali. The mural highlighted many people important in the history of the branch:
The pirates are all members of The Friends of the Evelyn Meador Library
All of the fairies are past or present library patrons
In the far-left corner, the woman standing up and holding onto her pirate hat is long-time Children's Librarian, Shelly Lynn Pearson
On the right side, the man playing the guitar is Greg Burns, the Manger at the time the branch reopened
A second mural, painted by Ruth Burke, Lacie Burke, Timothy Varisco, and Jason Salvaggio, depicts important moments from Seabrook's history.
In October 2011, Seabrook celebrated its 50th anniversary with a parade. Residents gathered at the Evelyn Meador branch to cheer on the floats.
The branch celebrated its 25th anniversary in June 2013 with a party and a cake featuring Pearl the Pelican.
The Hampstead Stage Company presented Robin Hood at the branch in the summer of 2015. The cast picked children from the audience to participate in the production.
An epic water balloon battle took place on June 9, 2016.
Chess Club meeting in January 2017.
In June 2018, the branch celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Later that summer, a Little Free Library was installed at the flagpoles new the nature trail. Girl Scout Sigourney Lee constructed the library for her Girl Scout Silver Award. The project was sponsored by the Friends of the Evelyn Meador Branch Library.
In 2019, the branch started a Seed Library which soon expanded into a Seed Exchange program.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Evelyn Meador staff transitioned to virtual and curbside services to continue offering exceptional customer service to the community. While the building was closed, the team made face masks, regularly restocked the Little Free Library with books donated to the Friends, and held virtual storytimes and programs. Once curbside service started in the summer of 2020, staff created book bundles, maintained the community herb garden and filled the many holds placed by their devoted patrons.
The branch reopened to the public on May 19, 2021. Children's Librarian Shelly Lynn Pearson is seen here on opening day with a young customer and his stack of new books to read.
After a challenging year for the Seabrook community, the library is back in business.