A New Look at Old Middleton – Middleton Library

Towns grow and change; buildings are transitioned to new purposes; residents come and go; and City leaders with foresight and persistence pave the way for these changes. When Middleton began, it was agricultural, with fields, orchards, cattle, and related businesses that developed to process and market these farm products. This is the story of two buildings constructed for particular purposes, and then transformed to meet the growing needs of the town.

In 1912, Idaho Power constructed a small substation to convert power from Swan Falls Dam into residential power for street lights, business machines, and home lighting. It coordinated well with the building next to it that converted Swan Falls power into electric power to run the Interurban Trolley line. As automobiles replaced street cars and infrastructure for electricity delivery improved, the need for substations diminished. Idaho Power donated the small substation to the town, and it became the town library.

Across the street, Irving Cornell, a local businessman, constructed a stucco building in 1934 to be used as a seed cleaning and storage facility. Over time agriculture procedures and ownership changed, and in the early 1970’s, the J. R. Simplot Company purchased the building.

One summer day in 1979, Middleton Mayor Alice Lanning was at the little Library to help with the summer reading program Librarian Maria March had organized. When 107 children showed up, she knew a bigger library was needed for her growing town! Her search for new space began. The seed cleaning plant, which was standing empty and idle at that time, sparked her interest in purchasing the building to be renovated as Library space. She contacted the J. R. Simplot Company, asking if they would consider selling the building, and at what price. Her inquiry came to the attention of Adelia Simplot, Community Relations Coordinator for the Company, who took on the request as a personal project. In October, 1979, Adelia Simplot, Mayor Lanning, Middleton Library Board members, and interested residents gathered to work out the details for presenting the building to the City.

“We’re just thrilled to death,” Mayor Lanning was quoted as saying. “We’re on our way right now planning what can be done. We’re going to need some help in raising money. We’ll cheerfully accept all donations, and we’re trying to get some money-raising project going.”

The rest of the story is history. The substation became a community center for a while and is now the Lee Moberly Museum. The Library moved into the renovated seed cleaning building and was added onto as the City continued to grow. Today’s Library patrons owe a debt of gratitude to two imaginative women who saw an opportunity for improvement, and the Middleton residents who supported their dream.

Visionary, determined leaders use and update the resources of their community to meet the needs of growing and changing populations. This should also include maintaining the critical values and structures that contribute to the community’s history.

Pictured are Adelia Simplot and Mayor Alice Lanning.

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