Something noble still survives


By Marilyn Delk


The Greenville Public Library contains a wealth of treasures, and not all of that bounty is literary. The art adorning the walls of the stately yet inviting Reference Room is not only fascinating, but offers insight into the history of our community and more. The stained glass portrait of Henry St. Clair, the Greenville wholesale grocer who along with his wife Ella endowed not only the Library, but also Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall where Darke County Center for the Arts presents its annual Artists Series concerts and Family Theatre Series shows and other memorable events are held, is accompanied by the following quote: “And in the wreck of mortal lives, something noble still survives.” Evidence of the truth of that statement surrounds all who enter this impressive space.

The “wreck of mortal lives” is aptly illustrated by the photographs currently hanging in the Reference Room; the work of 24-year-old Jake Schneider of Greenville, the pictures document the damage to Greenville City Park wreaked by the tornado which swept through Greenville on May 7. Simply titled but devastating in their effect, the archival pigment prints evoke the wonder and horror experienced by local residents during the storm.

“Creek” shows fallen branches and leaves splayed in the water, while “Tree” is only a starkly splintered trunk. “Harmon Field” shows stools and chairs scattered in front of the football field, which is surrounded by caution tape. “No Dogs” illustrates the emptiness of the children’s playground, while a large rock looms before the wreckage of the “Gazebo.” “Greenville Park Entrance” shows the welcoming path through the park blocked by a fallen tree, aptly recalling the reality of being unable to travel through the beloved space to personally take stock of the extensive damage.

The photographer, who works as an optemetry technician at Family Health in Greenville and also plays guitar for his band, Camarillo, became interested in capturing photographic images three years ago when he discovered some Lifemagazines from the 1960’s and ‘70’s, and wondered what equipment had made these photographs possible. He takes his pictures with a vintage Nikon F loaded with Tri-X film, then develops them at his home.

The black and white images showing the results of the storm remind those of us who lived through it of the events of that stormy night even while recovery efforts miraculously erase those results from view. Jake says that he feels some guilt about documenting an event that caused disruption and sorrow to many, a thought often expressed by photographers of iconic tragic events, and hopes that viewers see the pictures as a memorable and noble illustration of local history.

You can see more of the young photographer’s work at his Website: He recently documented the closing of Schultz Motors, marking the end of an era for the dealership/garage and those connected to it, and is now planning to create a book featuring sites and sights in Greenville, his hometown.

I hope that his book will include photos of the art treasures permanently installed in the Greenville Public Library, such as a bust honoring Scottish essayist, historian, satiriest, and philospher Thomas Carlyle which has been on display within the Library since its opening in 1903. The replicated painting of Andrew Carnegie on display was donated to GPL in 1935 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the steel magnate and philanthropist who donated millions for the construction of public libraries around the world, including our library. The stunning 12’ x 3 ½’ Shakespeare art glass window, donated by Ella St. Clair who oversaw the Library’s completion in 1912, contains a quote from Act 3, Scene 2 of the Bard’s Henry VIII: “Let all the ends thou aim’st at be thy Country’s, thy God’s, and Truth’s.”

Henry St. Clair’s quoted wish is certainly being fulfilled at Greenville Public Library; much that is noble still survives, and is celebrated!

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