In the center of Eastford is a Greek Revival building called the Ivy Glenn Memorial. It was built as a Methodist Church in 1847, the same year Eastford separated from Ashford to become a new town. In 1916, Eastford Methodists joined with Congregationalists to form a Federated Church and the former Methodist Church was sold to the town for $200. The building’s basement was repaired to serve as a place for town meetings. Restoration work was completed in 1934 with funds from the Civil Works Administration. The upstairs hall was now used for town meetings and the library and town offices were located in the basement. A new Town Hall was erected in 1969 and after town offices moved to the new building, the library was able to expand in the basement of the former church. This required a new renovation which was funded by a bequest in honor of Ivy Glenn made by her husband, Wilmer Glenn, a New York stockbroker who spent summers in the Phoenixville section of Eastford. The enlarged library opened in 1972. Another renovation was made after a fire in May 1979 damaged the front of the building.
Eastford is one of those towns in the state where the center of population nearly coincides with the geographical center of the township. Miss Ellen Larned, in her valuable History of Windham County, tells us that “the first inhabitant was John Perry from Marlborough, Mass.; who bought 350 acres of land on both sides of Still River and settled upon it near the site of the present Eastford Village.” The grave of this rude forefather of the hamlet may be seen, if I am not mistaken, in the old grave-yard back of the Congregational Church. From the beginning the chief settlement has gathered around this original spot. The village is favorably located, with a healthful environment, a fine outlook, and excellent water power. There are six roads which unite at the village green in front of the Methodist Church; and now that the state road is constructed the facilities for travel are all that can be desired. A fresh hope for the place can be confidently indulged in. The old-time saying of one of its people is fast coming more true than ever before: “Eastford is the biggest place of its size on earth.”
Knowlton Memorial Hall, located at 25 Pompey Hollow Road in Ashford, was built in 1924 to serve as a town hall and library. These facilities are located on the second floor, while a large hallway and auditorium occupy the first floor. The building was the gift of Charles C. Knowlton (1844-1924), a native of Ashford who was a partner in a Putnam silk mill. He resided in New York City, where he marketed the firm’s silk, but he would spend summers in his home town of Ashford. He gifted Knowlton Memorial Hall in honor of his father, Jonathan W. Knowlton, and his ancestor, Col. Thomas Knowlton (1740-1776), who had served in the Revolutionary War. Col. Knowlton led a company of men who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was killed the following year in fighting in New York. Knowlton Memorial Hall was designed by Herbert Loud and is constructed of local fieldstone, reflecting a rustic aesthetic associated with the Craftsman movement. The Babcock Library, originally opened in 1866, was established through a gift of $3,000 from Archibald Babcock (1780-1862), another successful Ashford native who became a brewer in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Initially located in the Warrenville General Store, the library had for many years been housed in the residence of librarian Peter Platt before finding a permanent home in Knowlton Memorial Hall. Babcock also gave $3,000 to establish the Babcock Band, which is the nation’s oldest civilian cornet band.
The building which know houses the Rowayton Community Center in Norwalk was originally built in 1912 as the carriage house and stables for the Rock Ledge estate. The estate’s original mansion, built on the other side of Highland Street in 1911, burned down and was rebuilt in 1913. The carriage house and U-shaped stables wings are constructed with a rough stone first floor and a half-timbered upper story with jerkinhead roofs in the Tudor Revival style.
The Community Center also houses the Rowayton Library. After an brief early attempt to establish a library in Rowayton in 1867, locals established what would become today’s Rowayton Library in 1903. Originally located in the former Craw Store, Craw Hall, at 101 Rowayton Avenue, the library moved into the former home of the Rowayton Fire Department in 1926 and finally into the former stables in the 1960s.
Frederick Gunn, founder of the Gunnery School in Washington, was also the founder, in 1852, of the Washington Library Association, of which he became president in 1855. In the 1880s the Library Association evolved into the Washington Reading Room & Circulating Library Association, which opened a reading room in 1891. E.H. Van Ingen pledged land and money toward erecting a permanent library building in 1902 and the completed building was dedicated in 1908. It was designed by noted architect Ehrick K.Rossiter, who had become a summer resident of Washington. The interior has ceiling murals by Washington resident H. Siddons Mowbray and bronze busts by English sculptor A. Bertram Pegram. The local DAR branch had opened a historical room in a nearby house in 1899. This collection was turned over to the library in 1907. Originally located in the library’s basement, the museum later collection moved to the adjacent house, bequeathed to the library by June S. Willis in 1965. A new 7,500 square foot addition, five times the size of the original library, was completed in 1994. The plans were drawn by King & Tuthill.
The William Ross Public Library, built in 1911 at 57 Chaplin Street, is the original library building in the town of Chaplin. The library has since moved to the building at 130 Chaplin Street, a former elementary school built in 1948 and renovated for the library in 2000. The history of the library is described by librarian Ruth Eveline Snow in “The William Ross Public Library, Chaplin” in A Modern History of Windham County, Vol. I (1920):
About two years before the regular organization, a circulating library was kept first in the old Davenport House by Nettie E. Snow. At a town meeting October 7, 1901, the town gave a vote of thanks to Mr. Seth Moseley of New Haven for his gift of $100 toward the establishment of a free library. At the same meeting it was voted that the town should give $200, and “should spend annually for maintenance and increase $25.”
[. . .] The library has at present $50 a year from the town, $25 for heating, lighting, magazines, etc., and $25 for the librarian’s salary; $50 a year, interest on the William Ross Trust Fund. The library is under the state law and the state gives $100 worth of books each year.
The library was kept in different places. It had no regular library building. At the death of Mr. William Ross, a public-spirited citizen, it was found that his will provided money for a suitable library building. His widow added more money to the fund, so that a $6,500 brick building was erected. The dedication of the building was Saturday, November 18, 1911.
[. . .] The new building was built by George Eastman Snow. A guest book is kept on one of the tables and now shows the names of many visitors from many different states.
The library now numbers about two thousand volumes. Collections of books are sent each term, to each of the three schools in the town. The children use the library to a great extent, and it is very popular with the adults also.
The old South Britain Library, 576 South Britain Road, was the first library building erected in the Town of Southbury. It was built in 1904 by Axel Wilson for $746 on land donated by the Mitchell family. The library was operated by the private, non-profit South Britain Library Association. In 1969 a new town library building was erected on on Main Street, taking over from the old South Britain Library. The current Southbury Public Library is located at 100 Poverty Road in a building completed in 2006. Since 1983 the Southbury Historic Building Commission has maintained the old South Britain Library building. It now houses Southbury’s Library of Local History and Genealogy, managed by the Southbury Historical Society.
The small brick structure at 6 Main Street South in Woodbury was built in 1888 on land sold to the town by Charles Hurd with the stipulation that the town would retain use of it or ownership would revert to his heirs. The building served as the Town Clerk’s office from 1888 until 1952. It was renovated in 1986 by the Old Woodbury Historical Society, which uses it as a library and archive of old town records.