A subscription library was started at a store in West Suffield in 1812. The Town of Suffield’s first free public library was established in 1894. Sidney Albert Kent, a Chicago businessman who was originally from Suffield and who had attended the Connecticut Literary Institute (Suffield Academy) donated $35,000 in 1897 to build a library as a memorial to his parents, Albert and Lucinda Kent. The building opened in 1899, but by the 1960s had become far too small for the expanding library’s needs. The old library was sold to Suffield Academy to raise funds for a new Kent Memorial Library, which opened in 1972. Considered to be a landmark of modernism, the new library building was designed by Warren Platner, an architect and interior designer known for his Modernist furniture of the 1960s. The library was in danger of being torn down in 2008, but residents voted in a referendum against demolishing the building and replacing it with a newer and bigger one (see pdf file: “Modernism at Risk.”). Construction will begin this summer on a handicapped-accessible addition to the existing library.
The Wallingford Public Library was first organized in 1881 as The Ladies’ Library and Reading Room Association. In its early years, the library occupied space in several locations, including the Wallace Block and the Simpson Block. The library was able to move into its own building through a bequest of Samuel Simpson (1814-1894) in memory of his daughter, Martha DeEtte Simpson (1841-1882). He donated land at 60 North Main Street, $25,000 for construction and $20,000 for an endowment fund. The cornerstone of the building, designed by Wilson Potter, was laid on September 21, 1899 by Margaret Tibbits, Samuel Simpson’s great-granddaughter. That same year, the library became a free library. In 1958 membership was opened to men as well as women and the name was legally changed to the Wallingford Public Library Association. An addition was constructed in 1931 and the building was extensively renovated in 1962, but the need for more space led to the construction of a new library at 200 North Main Street in 1982. The cornerstone for the new structure was laid by the same great-granddaughter of Samuel Simpson, Margaret Tibbits Taber (1891-1985)! The former library was converted into office space. The current owner is considering future uses for the old library.
In 1839, thirty citizens of the Town of Plymouth (which includes Terryville), organized the Terryville Lyceum Library, a private subscription library. Interest dwindled after the Civil War, but near the turn of the century a new group of townspeople established the Terryville Free Public Library, which received the donation of all of the Lyceum Library’s books and 52 books from Francis Atwater, author of the History of the Town of Plymouth (1895). Initially the library was housed in the Town Hall courtroom and then for a time in a room in the old Main Street School before a demand for classroom space forced a relocation back to the Town Hall. The library finally got its own building, at 238 Main Street in Terryville, in 1922. An addition to the library was constructed in 1975.
At the head of the Town Green in Ellington is the Hall Memorial Library, which first opened in 1903. The building was designed by architect Wilson Potter of New York, who specialized in schools and libraries and also designed the Bristol Public Library. The library was the gift of Francis Hall, who had left Ellington for Elmira, NY, in honor of his father, Judge John Hall, and his brother, Edward Hall, who had both headed renowned schools in Ellington. A bookseller, Francis Hall went to Japan in 1859 to collect material for a book and to serve as correspondent for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune. He kept a detailed diary of his experiences in Japan from 1859 to 1866. In Yokohama, he helped found Walsh, Hall and Co., which became the leading American trading house in Japan. Two acres of land in Ellington were purchased from Chauncey C. Chapman for the library, with the understanding that the remaining part of the property would be maintained as a green. A 19,000 square foot addition was made to the library in 1992. Click for some postcard images of the library: 001, 002, 003.
The building now known as the Jordan Park House was originally built in 1928 as the Waterford Public Library. A gift of Mrs. Edward C. Hammond, it was located on Great Neck Road in Waterford, but was moved in 1961 to make way for a new railroad overpass. A new library on Rope Ferry Road opened in 1966. The old library building was transferred to Jordan Park, where it would soon be joined by other relocated historic structures: the 1740 Jordan Schoolhouse and the 1838 Beebe-Phillips House. The Jordan Park House was home to the offices of the Waterford Recreation and Parks Department until 1984 and since then to the Waterford Historical Society.
The Bristol Public Library first opened in 1892 in cramped quarters in a building on Main Street. In 1896 it moved to the Charles Treadway house at the corner of Main and High Streets. On this site a new library was built in 1906 and dedicated the following year. A Colonial Revival building, it was designed by Wilson Potter of New York, who specialized in academic buildings. A Children’s Library wing and an Auditorium were later added on the north side of the building, but these were razed in 2006 for a new addition, which better reflects the original Colonial Revival architecture.
The Slater Library, at 26 Main Street in Jewett City, serves the towns of Griswold and Lisbon. The library was the gift of industrialist and philanthropist John Fox Slater, who owned the Slater Mills in Jewett City. It had not been completed at the time of his death in 1884. His son, William Albert Slater, oversaw its completion and the library was dedicated in 1885. William A. Slater also donated the Slater Memorial Museum in Norwich in honor of his farther. The Slater Library was designed by Stephen C. Earle of Worcester. It was constructed of granite, brought from Milford, Mass., and brownstone. The library‘s size was doubled in 1930 with the building of an addition (the Fanning Annex), designed by Cudworth and Thompson of Norwich.