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.
The Wickham Memorial Library, at 656 Burnside Avenue in East Hartford, was built in 1939-1940. It was the gift of Clarence H. Wickham (1860-1945), a wealthy industrialist, in honor of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Horace J. Wickham. An innovator in the envelope industry, Wickham also left his estate in Manchester, “The Pines,” to become what is now Wickham Park. As noted in The Hartford Courant (“New Library Starts Soon In Burnside,” June 23, 1939), Wickham sought to perform the dual service of leaving a suitable memorial to his parents and contribute to the happiness and welfare of the Wickhams’ neighbors in the Burnside section of East Hartford. The Colonial Revival library, designed by Smith & Bassette of Hartford, had its dedication ceremony on February 9, 1940.
The Pequot Library in Southport (in Fairfield) was founded in 1889 by Elbert B. Monroe and his wife, Virginia Marquand Monroe (1837-1926), who was the adopted daughter of Fairfield jeweler and businessman Frederick Marquand. The library building, located at 720 Pequot Avenue in Southport, was built in 1893 on the the grounds of the Marquand home, a Greek Revival house built in 1832, which was demolished to make way for the library. This was a site originally settled by Frederick Marquand‘s ancestor Henry Marquand in 1768. Frederick Marquand‘s brother was Henry G. Marquand, the noted financier, philanthropist and art collector. The library opened to the public in April of 1894. Constructed of sandstone blocks with a red tile roof, the building was designed by architect Robert H. Robertson.
In 1818, the North Groton Union Library was established in the area that would later become the town of Ledyard. One of the original subscribers who helped found the library was Gurdon Bill, whose son Henry Bill (1824-1891) later became a wealthy publisher in Norwich. In 1867 Henry Bill approached town leaders on the subject of donating a new library. The new Bill library collection and the earlier library collection were housed at the Congregational Church. The number of books rapidly grew rapidly through donations made by both Henry Bill and his brothers, who had also become successful. Among the Bill brothers were Gurdon Bill, who became a publisher in Springfield, Massachusetts; Charles Bill, who became a traveler; Frederic Bill, who donated the Bill Memorial Library in Groton; and Ledyard Bill, the first child born in Ledyard after it became a town, who settled in Paxton, Massachusetts and wrote the History of the Bill Family (1867).
As related in the History of the Town of Ledyard, 1650-1900, by John Avery:
When the library was first created, book-cases were made and placed in the gallery of the Congregational Church. Here the books were kept for nearly twenty-six years, but in later years, the Bill brothers, seeing the necessity of a separate and permanent home for the growing library, secured a location on the “Common” near the church at the centre, and contributed the sum of three thousand dollars for the construction of a suitable edifice, and under the supervision of Mr. Frederic Bill, there was erected, for library purposes, an appropriate building, that will remain a monument to the generosity of the family for many years to come. This building was suitably dedicated on the day of our annual meeting in 1893. It contains a hall, room for the meeting of the trustees, and a spacious apartment where the library is located. The walls are adorned with pictures of the trustees, many of the citizens of the town, also many natives of the town of Ledyard, who have gone out from among these rocks and hills and become eminent in other states.
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.