November 21, 2013

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

We have a ghost at our offices and her name is Marcia. It’s actually Marcia Crocker Noyes. Marcia was the librarian at MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society where I work, and when our current offices were built in 1909, an apartment was built for her on the top floor. In essence, a penthouse!

Marcia started her library career at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore and then took a position at MedChi in 1896, when MedChi was located in a building several blocks from our current location. She was in her mid-20’s when she started and the library had about 7,000 outdated volumes.Marcia crocker noyes

In 1889, Sir William Osler, one of the founding physicians at the newly opened Johns Hopkins Medical School, arrived in Baltimore and set to work with Marcia to revive MedChi’s library. He was a noted bibliophile and had a large personal collection of books on various topics. Sir William and Marcia worked to create a library, and when our building was erected in 1909, a large four-story stacks library was created that was renown in the world’s medical community. IMG_2969x

Her apartment, on the top of our building, was a lovely four room flat, with lots of light, big windows, a working fireplace and a view out over the city. She kept a vegetable garden in what is now our parking lot. Her apartment was considered the first penthouse in Baltimore!Marcia Noyes2

Marcia worked diligently to create a state of the art library and at her death, 50 years after she arrived, the number of volumes totaled more than 65,000! Img 027She was well-known in the emerging field of medical library sciences, and in fact, the highest award for a medical librarian is named for her. She became become the first woman and first non-physician President of the of Medical Librarians Association in 1933.

In her 50th year of service to MedChi, a large party was given in her honour. The doctors knew she was dying and pushed to have it earlier in the year, although her anniversary was in November. She was still living in the apartment on the top floor, and working in the library, although an elevator and a dumbwaiter had been added to make things easier for her.

She died in her apartment in November of 1946, 50 years after she arrived. Her funeral was held in Osler Hall, named for her dear friend, Sir William Osler, and 60 doctors were honoured to act as pallbearers.sideboard2She’s still here in spirit, if not more. There are documented cases of her being seen in Osler Hall, and odd things happen in our buildilng. In her old offices, you can hear someone typing on the keyboard, even when no one’s there. If she doesn’t like the song on the iPod, she changes it to a new tune. As I approached our old elevator the other week, the door magically opened – no one was around and I hadn’t heard it arrive. When we did our tour of our building on October 30th, I was talking about Marcia and all that she did, when suddenly, the lights dimmed, flickered and went out. There was no one near the switch, and you couldn’t dim the light-bank even if you tried. We think that it was Marcia letting us know that she was there. Wheels squeak in the stacks, and you can hear muffled footsteps. Things turn up, even though they were NOT there before… like the painting I found a few weeks ago!Patterson

There is much to be admired about this woman who worked so hard for us, who was beloved by all – her employees stayed with her for years – and who did much to advance library science. She was the Google of her day, being available to doctors 24/7 for 50 years. She’s a benign presence here and still a revered figure in her chosen field.

28 comments:

  1. That is an incredible story! What amazing and very intelligent woman. Meg where did you find the painting?

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen - I found the painting tucked in the back of the stacks.

      Delete
  2. Love stories like this! I also had a few experiences with ghosts. But they are not made alike...she seems like fun and still hard at work trying to help Meg :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All of my experiences have been very tame.

      Delete
  3. What an interesting story. !!! wonder if there are more pictures of the penthouse?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's being used as offices. Aside from a nice fireplace, it's not too special.

      Delete
  4. I'm with Joni. Maybe more pictures of the penthouse will magically appear.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a lovely story. What is the penthouse used for now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are used for offices for our Medical Network Services section.

      Delete
  6. What a great story - it made my day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. She was a special person by all accounts.

      Delete
  7. Who can blame her for sticking around? I would also be unwilling to vacate a penthouse on top of a library!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ghost! + they can be so special + what a wonderful story you weave. I have a client who has a ghost who is very active + they don't know the gender + they love it/she/he. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's quite a nice ghost, and I think that she's helping me find things in the archives!

      Delete
  9. I'm with Parnassus -- a penthouse apartment with a fireplace and an elevator taking me down to the library? That's heaven enough for me! What's really fascinating to me is seeing the DRASTIC changes in fashion that Marcia lived through, from the old-fashioned Victorian elegance in the first photo, down to the exotic 1933 outfit (reminded me of something Auntie Mame would wear) and then the last photos from the 1940s, wearing a dress and shoes that many elderly women would still wear to church in 2013. Then I think about how the changes in women's fashion were driven by and reflected so much social change and upheaval that people of Marcia's generation lived through. Wow! You're lucky to have such a cool -- and friendly! -- ghost in residence!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rebecca - NO elevator between the flat and the main floor, just a long sweeping staircase, with about 30 steps. However, they did add an elevator and dumbwaiter in the library at some point.

      Delete
  10. Did she use the spinning wheel, or was it for decoration only?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Abby - I am not sure. I wondered that, too. It looks like she's got some early American antiques there.

      Delete
  11. I just love this story, and especially so for the fact that my name is Marcia, too, and my dream from childhood to present is to be a reference librarian. Never quite got the job, but this is such a great post. You've captured a fascinating Marcia.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a wonderful story! I was talking to my deceased parents last night (in my mind) when the lights in my house dimmed three times. Never happened before -- and then I happen to run across your blog this morning! Kismet! Cheers! :)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great story - even without the ghost part, which is just the icing on the cake! You know you have to find out who the gentleman in that painting is, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got him! Check later posts for his story.

      Delete
  14. She sounds lovely, both then and now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She is. I am becoming a big fan of hers.

      Delete

Thank you for reading and commenting on Pigtown*Design. I read each and every comment and try to reply if I have your e-mail address.