The Peabody Public Library was established in 1901 through the philanthropic contributions of Leigh Smith J. Hunt. He offered to support a public library for the benefit of the people of Whitley County. Known as the People's Free Library of Whitley County, the library opened for business on the second floor of the Raupfer Building located on the corner of West Van Buren and Line Street. During the first year, 29,675 items circulated.
Artist's rendition of building on North Main
Concerned citizens circulated petitions to keep the library open in 1911 when Mr. Hunt could no longer financially support it. The City Council of Columbia City responded by passing an ordinance to make the Library a tax supported institution.
In 1917, Simon J. Peabody donated land and funds to erect a building on North Main Street. He also bequeathed money to the library and the governing board created an endowment which has enabled the library to purchase capitol improvements. In 1970 the library board built a major addition doubling the size of that library. In 1992, the library became a Class I library and expanded its district to include two surrounding townships.
Library viewed from path around wetlands
In 1999, a new 27,500 square foot facility was built on Highway 205. Unfinished areas were used for an expansion in 2010. The 14.25 acres of property also includes a wetland area that may be used for educational purposes. A mulched path around the wetlands is open to the public.
Some previous members of the library board include Rob R. McNagny - local author, Thomas R. Marshall - Governor of Indiana & Vice President of the United States, Andrew A. Adams - Judge & member of the Indiana House of Representatives, James Fleck - Mayor of Columbia City.