The library was originally started as a circulating library in 1889 by Alfred Lewelling. Books were placed in the law office of Thomas Lakin, Justice of the Peace, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets. The building burned a few months after the library started and it wasn't until 1910 that a committee was appointed to meet with City Council to establish a room in the old city hall for the library use.
When the new grammar school was completed in 1916, the library books were turned over to the school. There were traveling stations, the books supplied by the Oregon State Library, in a few Milwaukie homes until November 1926, when the library was officially opened in the Perry Pharmacy. Two hundred books were supplied by the State Library and circulation was brisk.
With Wilbur D. Rowe's plan and City Council permission, the library then was moved to the City Hall council chambers in 1934 and Dorothy M. Winters became the first official librarian in 1935 (-1940). The first Library Board was appointed by City Council in 1936. In 1937 the new City Hall was built, which housed the library, with Ruth Smith as librarian starting in 1940 (-1942).
The "Friends of the Milwaukie Library" was organized in 1952 and the library has been promoted and well-served by volunteers from this group ever since.
Mrs. Ledding, a progressive, politically involved person, specified in her will that her home and property was to be maintained in perpetuity by the City as a free, public library "for the uses, objects and purposes of the furtherance and advancement of education, learning, literture and science, for the use of all people regardless of race, age, station in life, color, sex or religious faith."
Mrs. Ledding also asked that the library be named "The Ledding Library" as a memorial to her husband Herman and to herself. With the help of a successful $150,000 bond measure, the Ledding home and property became the present day library for Milwaukie.
Florence Olsen Ledding was born on June 24, 1870, in North Platt, Nebraska. She was a graduate of the University of Oregon, taught school and then passed the Oregon bar. She was the first referee in bankruptcy court in the United States District Court and one of the state's first women attorneys. Mrs. Ledding practiced law until her marriage to Herman Ledding, also an attorney. Florence Ledding passed away on January 21, 1961. Thousands upon thousands have been the beneficiaries of her gift to the City of Milwaukie.