The other day I ventured up into the Northwest corner of Connecticut to visit a historic library (more on that library next month) and drove past the Norfolk Library on the way home. “Oh, another library!” I said to the empty car. I almost considered driving on, but my curiosity got the better of me and I turned around.
The Norfolk Library was established by Isabella Eldridge as a memorial to her parents. It opened on March 6, 1889, and was designed by George Keller of Hartford. The Great Hall, back alcove, and additional stacks were added in 1911 and also designed by Keller.
Here are some pictures from my visit.
Approaching the main entrance.
The main entrance.
The view to the right when you walk in. Notice the water bowl for 4-legged friends of the library to the right of the fireplace. I love that.
As I walked into the entrance room and toward the fireplace in the previous picture, I saw beautiful stained glass windows to my right, but when I turned to the left–whoa!–I was blown away by this gorgeous view of the main stacks. The two levels of red oak bookshelves are capped by a graceful barrel-vaulted ceiling. The room glimmers like a treasure chest.
The circulation desk is to the immediate right in the photo above and it was there that I met Chris, the circulation librarian. I asked if the library was designed after the Trinity College library. I think Chris said that there’s no documentation that it was, but the architect was from Ireland and may have been influenced by it. I think that’s what he said…my ears were a bit overpowered by my eyes.
Here’s the view looking back toward the entrance. The circulation desk is to the far left and I believe the center portrait is of Isabella Eldridge, the library’s founder.
Beautiful old cabinet, new books display.
Passing through the main stacks, you eventually walk into The Great Hall. Here’s a picture looking back through the Great Hall, toward the entrance.
The Great Hall. Work tables, comfortable seating, grand piano, and large movie screen.
Fireplace in The Great Hall.
Fireplace detail. The Library’s motto is INTER FOLIA FRUCTUS (Among the leaves, fruit).
A delightful old chair. Notice the window seats. Those are the back windows of the library.
A cozy book nook.
Stairwell leading to the second floor with bust of Abraham Lincoln above.
Looking down onto the hall.
Looking down into one of the book nooks.
From the second floor, at the rear of the library. There’s a desk up here which may once have been someone’s office. What a great view he or she had.
Another view from above.
After taking this picture I walked along the second floor towards the entrance of the library and thought it rather amazing that they still let people up there. The railings are very low, about mid-thigh on me and I’m just over 5 feet tall.
As I stood above the circulation desk marveling at the beauty of the library I heard a concerned but firm voice say, “You can’t be up there.” I looked over at the stairwell that I hadn’t noticed before which comes up to the second floor from the circulation desk. Chris the librarian was standing halfway up it looking at me. I apologized profusely and immediately followed him down the stairs.
After he finished with the patron whose transaction was interrupted by hearing the creaks from my footsteps above, Chris explained that patrons aren’t allowed on the second floor due to liability issues. The railings are so low because the architect designed them that way to create a better visual effect. The doorway leading up to the second floor was only open because a technician was adjusting the movie projector. I swear the only sign I saw was one telling me to watch my head.
How lucky was I to be able to go up on to the second floor? And since I didn’t know any better I don’t even feel guilty about it. Anyway, moving on…
Back near the circulation desk is a hallway where the restrooms are located as well as the passage into the children’s section, which was a 1985 addition.
A gift presented to Isabella Eldridge, the founder, on the library’s twentieth anniversary located near the fireplace at the front entrance.
Remember when I first walked into the library and saw the fireplace with the water bowl next to it? You’ll remember that to the left is that grand hall of books and to the right is this reference room with the stained glass windows that first caught my eye.
Across the stained glass windows is this wisdom: A WISE MAN IS STRONG / YEA A MAN / OF KNOWLEDGE / INCREASETH / IN STRENGTH.
A WISE MAN IS STRONG
YEA A MAN
Now for more exterior shots.
Exiting the library and walking around to the right.
The parking lot. It was full when I arrived, so I parked out front.
The great hall windows.
The back of the library. The window seats are on the lower level.
The opposite side from the parking features this seating area which is also just outside the children’s room.
A view of the seating area from the second floor.
That’s the children’s room jutting out.
Turret and wheel chair entrance.
The library is soon undergoing some restoration.
Main entrance detail.
I’m so thrilled that I stopped to check out this library and look forward to a future visit when I’ll have more time to admire the architectural detail and perhaps enjoy one of those cozy chairs for some reading time. The Norfolk Library
9 Greenwoods Rd East
Post Office Box 605
Norfolk, CT 06058