The Kankakee Public Library has not one but two mascots. They are the two iron Lions that have stood guard at our front doors since 1930. The Lions are actually much older. Originally, back in the 1880s (right after the great Chicago Fire) they were on guard on Lake Street at a downtown Chicago department store called Gossage. Carson Pirie Scott and Co., bought out the Gossage store, moving the merchandise and the Lions to their own State Street store. At the turn of the century Carsons did some remodeling and decided that the Lions did not fit their new entrance and they were stored away.
The Gelino brothers, pioneer Kankakee merchandisers, were long time favored customers of the Carson wholesale store. When the Gelinos sought to buy the Lions they were given the figures free, providing they were to be well cared for and "properly fed." The lions were placed at the entrance of the Gelino store, on the corner of Schuyler and Merchant, in 1905. They were painted to represent living animals. Regardless of their ferocious appearance, they attracted children in great numbers. It was frequently noticed, however, that "dogs eyed them distrustfully, and some did bark -- at a discreet distance." They remained in front of the Gelino's store until it closed in 1930.
After the Gelino Brothers store closed, The Lions were sold to the Library for $25.00 on January 14, 1930, where they have guarded the entrance to the Indiana Ave. building for a heroic 73 years. However, when the Library outgrew its original home and prepared to move to a new facility, controversy arose. Not over whether The Library needed a n ew home, most everyone agreed The Library was bursting at its seams. The issue at hand was the fate of the beloved Lions. Shall they stay at their post on Indiana Ave., or take on new duties in front of the newly remodeled Merchant Street building?
The Library staff conducted a poll of library users. The tally was 3 to 1 that the Lions should move to the new Library to be housed on the first three floors of the Executive Centre on the corner of Schuyler and Merchant Street, only a few yards from the spot they had occupied when guarding the entrance to the Gelino Brothers store. After the Kankakee Historical Preservation Commission approved the appropriateness of the Lion's move in a narrow vote, no hurdles remained to slow their march to Merchant Street.
Before they could take on their new mission, "Readmore" and "Seemore", were in desperate need of repair. The harsh Midwestern weather had taken its toll on their metal skins. Rust holes had developed, and one was missing an entire foot. It was decided that the artisans at Gemini Steel of Momence would take on the delicate task of putting the Library icons to rights. Click to See Pictures of the Repairs.
An so it was, when the Lions were unveiled by Mayor Donald Green and Mr. Scott Franco of Heritage Development Corporation on February 14, 2004, the Lions looked no older than the day they were cast in the 1880's. Proving that the people of Kankakee took to heart that promise of 100 years ago, Readmore and Seemore are properly cared for and well fed so that they may awe children of all ages for decades to come.