Part of a row of historic buildings on Chapel Street in New Haven are two structures with Queen Anne and Eastlake design elements. Located at nos. 841-843 and 845-847, both were built in 1878. They are currently owned by the Young Men’s Institute and the second and third floors at 847 Chapel Street (above no. 845) are the current home of the Institute Library, founded in 1826. Just west is the Optical Building, at 849 Chapel Street, built in 1912 and designed by Leoni Robinson. To the east is the English Building at 837-839 Chapel Street, named for Henry F. English. It was built in 1882, but after a fire a new Renaissance Revival facade by Leoni Robinson was installed in 1898.
Born in Middlefield in 1828, Levi E. Coe later settled in Meriden, where he became president of the Meriden Savings Bank and also served as a judge. He built and donated the library in his hometown that bears his name. The Richardsonian Romanesque-style library was dedicated in 1893. The building, located at 414 Main Street, was expanded in 1974 to connect to the neighboring Library Hall, the former St. Paul’s Episcopal Church that the library had acquired in 1920.
The building at 305 Main Street, at the corner of Peck Street, in Kensington, Berlin is currently home to the Berlin Historical Society. It was built in 1901-1902 as the permanent home of the Kensington Library Society. Founded in 1829, the Library Society had stored its books at various places around town before the building was constructed: first at the Kensington Congregational Church; from 1874 to 1877 at Hart’s Hall; next in a room in the Berlin Savings Bank; and in 1890 back at the church. In 1900, Susan A. Peck was a leader among those seeking to build a permanent home for the library. She convinced her cousin, Henry Hart Peck, to donate the funds for a new building, which was built on land donated by Miss Harriet Hotchkiss and Mrs. Fannie Hotchkiss Jones. The Library Society was incorporated in 1901 in order to receive the donation. The Peck Memorial Library building was dedicated on November 5, 1902. A modern addition to the library was built in 1963. In 1986 the Town of Berlin took over the library, thus making it a public institution. In 1989, the Berlin-Peck Memorial Library moved into a new building at 234 Kensington Road. The former building on Main Street then became the home of the Berlin Historical Society. The building was renamed the King-Peck Memorial in 1994 to honor Ron King, who was active in various civic groups in Berlin.
The Westport Reading Room and Library Association was founded in 1886 and was initially located on the second floor of the Hurlbutt Block. In 1896 Ambrose S. Hurlbutt generously reduced the lease and the Library moved to the first floor. It also started a building fund to construct its own home across the street. Morris Ketchum Jesup, a New York City banker and philanthropist, who was born in Westport in 1830, donated land and funding for the new building, which was dedicated on April 8, 1908. The building fund was then redirected to the endowment and acquisition of new books. The library grew and a new wing facing the Saugatuck River was added in 1956. Eventually a new Westport Public Library building was opened adjacent to Jesup Green on the Saugatuck River in 1986. In 2013 the Westport Library dropped the word “Public” from its name. The former library building on Post Road East is now used as retail and office space.
Local women founded the East Norwalk Improvement Association in 1900. Established to care for the needs of the community, the Association began planning for the construction of a Community Hall in 1912. Among the contributions from the public for building the hall was an envelope containing 37 cents with a letter from from an invalid girl who asked the Association to provide free books for the residents of East Norwalk. In response, the East Norwalk Library was organized in 1915 with its first books located in the window of Rundle’s Baker on Van Zant Street. The library moved into the new Community Hall (51 Van Zant Street), now called the East Norwalk Association Library, in 1917.
A subscription library in East Guilford (now Madison), called the “Farmers’ Library,” had existed from 1792 until the 1860s. A new Madison Library Association was formed in 1878. The library’s collection was housed in various places in town until it was lost in a fire in 1895. Eighteen books survived (those checked out at the time of the fire) and the Library Association soon resumed operations. A permanent home for the library was built at 801 Boston Post Road on the corner of Wall Street in Madison in 1900 by Miss Mary Eliza Scranton, who offered the fully furnished building to the town. The library was designed by Henry Bacon, later the architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. In 1901, the Library Association was dissolved and the E.C. Scranton Memorial Library was incorporated.
At 758 Main Street in Branford is the imposing James Blackstone Memorial Library, constructed between 1893 and 1896. The library was a gift of Timothy B. Blackstone, a railroad executive born in Branford, in memory of his father. The James Blackstone Memorial Library Association, with a board of trustees consisting of six residents of Branford and the librarian of Yale University, was incorporated in 1893. Blackstone provided an endowment fund $300,000. The monumentally-scaled library, constructed of Tennessee marble with a domed octagonal rotunda, was designed by Solon Spencer Beman of Chicago. It is a Classical Revival building with architectural details modeled on the Erechtheion on the Acropolis in Athens. The dome has murals painted by Oliver Dennett Grover. The library was dedicated on June 17, 1896. There is also a Blackstone Library in Chicago, also designed by Beman and named after Timothy Blackstone.