Scoville Memorial Library
In 1771, Richard Smith offered to bring 200 books back from London to the town of Salisbury--but only if Salisbury's residents made an adequate financial contribution. 39 people took him up on the offer, and "Smith Library" opened. Gifts and donations continued supporting the library over the following decades. Caleb Bingham contributed books in 1805 to form the Bingham Library for Youth, while Harriet Church's donations led to the Church Library. Eventually, the disparate book donations and acquisitions were brought to Town Hall, where they could all be shelved in the same place. Salisbury resident Jonathan Scoville left a $12,000 bequest in his will in the 1890s for the construction of a library building. Scoville Memorial Library was established in 1895, providing a centralized location for Salisbury's book holdings. Today, the Scoville Memorial Library is a not-for-profit association with over 30,000 items. It also holds the distinction of being the first publicly funded library in the United States.
Backstory and Context
The building is made of gray stone, sourced from a local quarry. Designed by Edmund Willson, it is built in the Romanesque Revival style. It bears a resemblance to the earlier Massachusetts libraries designed by H.H. Richardson, such as the Winn Memorial Library at Woburn (1877) and Ames Memorial Library at North Easton (1877). While many other libraries from this time period exhibit multiple colors (often earth tones such as brownstone or terra cotta), the Scoville Memorial Library is a monochromatic gray.
The main funds for construction came from Jonathan Scoville's bequest, though other members of the family also contributed. Grace Scoville donated a tower clock. The building housed stacks, a reading room, children's corner, reference department, auditorium, and kitchen. Salisbury Cathedral in England gave the library a 15th-century stone carving, which is located over the reading room's fireplace.
The library building was expanded in the 1980s to make room for more items. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
Ransom, David. "Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury CT." National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places. 1979. Accessed March 05, 2017. Reprinted and retrieved here: http://www.livingplaces.com/CT/Litchfield_County/Salisbury_Town/Scoville_Memorial_Library.html.
Chin, Eric. "The Scoville Memorial Library." Connecticut History. Accessed March 05, 2017. https://connecticuthistory.org/the-scoville-memorial-library/.
Photo credit: The George F. Landegger Collection of Connecticut Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith's America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012631642/.