The Nicholas P. Sims Library officially kicked off its campaign Tuesday for a capital improvement project on the second floor of the library.

The Lyceum auditorium rests on the second floor of the library and seats 277 attendants. According to a previous Daily Light report, the auditorium was constructed along with the library building in 1904 by Waxahachie artist and store painter W.B. Reymuller.

The auditorium still stands with the rest of the building one century later.

“The Lyceum is really named after the place where Aristotle used to lecture to the youth in ancient Greece,” Architexas senior principal Craig Melde stated in a media release. “It was promoted to be a place for continued adult education and youth education – a place to have debates, lectures, small entertainment.

“There are not many of them left in the state of Texas,” he continued. “I think only two or three had survived. Places like these are vanishing.”

Library director Barbara Claspell stated that the Lyceum is used sparingly for meetings, library tours and a few programs held up there. The reason, she said, the Lyceum isn’t used more often is because of the accessibility.

Claspell stated that the only way to access the Lyceum is by a marble staircase located at the building’s entrance. She said that many handicapped and elderly attendants can’t make it up to the auditorium because of the limited access.

“Out of the 37,000 people we have here now, I would almost bet you 36,000 would not know anything about this room,” Waxahachie Mayor Pro Tem David Hill remarked. “I saw it, and I said ‘I guess you have stuff up here all the time, right? They said ‘No, we don’t have access.’ I said ‘You don’t have what?’”

The Waxahachie City Council approved a $200,000 contribution last month towards to assist in capital improvements needed to provide easier access to the Lyceum – including elevator access, a reception area as well as additional toilet space.

“It’s so well designed and so well preserved,” Melde remarked. “I don’t think I’ve seen many other spaces in the state of Texas even in courthouses or other venues, that are so well-preserved.”

However, the costs of the project vastly exceed the city’s contribution to the project. Library Board of Trustees president Steve Chapman stated that the total costs of the project are estimated to be around $1.8 million – and they need all the help they can get from the public at large.

“It’s too gorgeous to continue to let it deteriorate,” Hill remarked. “If we don’t do it now, it may not get done.”

The library is hosting its first fundraiser 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 7 to raise funds for the project. According to a media release, the staff will talk about the Lyceum, discuss their plans for the future and show everyone what they hope to accomplish with their campaign. Light refreshments will also be provided.

“I think Waxahachie is very fortunate to have a place like this,” Melde expressed. “I think it could be a great opportunity to open this up.”

The library is also accepting mail-in donations for the improvements as well, with checks payable to “Sims Library” with a memo line of “Lyceum Capital Campaign” addressed to Nicholas P. Sims Library at 515 West Main Street, Waxahachie TX 75165. Donations from $100-$25,000 will earn donors naming rights to the Lyceum as well as a designated recognized plaque, with the platinum donation of $25,000 also earning donors personal access to the Lyceum for one event per year.

For more information on the campaign, call 972-937-2671 or email dir@simslib.org.