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.
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.