On the drive up from the shoreline of Connecticut to the Green Mountains of Vermont to attend Booktopia at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, my friend Emily and I stopped for a visit at the Moore Free Library in Newfane. VT.
The library was established in 1898 by Philura Celucia Wakefield Moore (1825-1915). She built the library which opened with 2,000 books. According to an undated article, construction on the building started in April 1897 and Philura’s husband died that October. Or she may have started construction after his death. Sources vary. He’d been in the cattle business and they were wealthy. According to the Historical Society of Windham County, Philura built upon an existing structure (c. 1840) that had served as a tailor’s shop and post office. She doubled its size.
Upon completion, the new structure functioned as both the town library AND Philura’s home. She also served as the first librarian. The writer of the previously mentioned article writes, “She resides in the building, and acts in the capacity of librarian, where her kind and venerable presence is a benediction to the patrons.” This is one of the more unique library origin stories that I’ve come across.
After the initial shock and grief for her husband morphed into Philura’s new normal, it sounds like she may had the perfect situation for the last 18 years of her life. Upon her death, she left the library building along with $2,000 to the town. That initial endowment and continuing donations have kept library operations humming along ever since without any government money.
In the years since Philura’s death, the library has also continued to grow in size. As you can see in the photo below, new additions have been added onto the back of the original building.
When you walk through the front door, you’re greeted by a cart of free books and a table full of free craft bags. To the left, in the Special Collections room, is the librarian’s desk/circulation.
Notice the late 19th-century library shelving system. The Galena Public Library in Illinois, built in 1907, has similar shelving. (See details of those shelves here.)
Old library shelving can be both beautiful and functional. This “end cap” does double duty for both the top shelf and the shelf below — when the bottom shelf is full and contains books tall enough to be held in place by the two tabs.
It’s always interesting to see what curious things libraries offer for check out. This is the first time I’ve come across metal detectors.
Looking from the Special Collections room into the Fiction room.
A comfy window seat in the fiction room. In 2020 the library received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to start a community oral history program.
In the Fiction room looking back toward the Special Collections room, which is to the right. The door to the left leads to New Fiction and the long hallway that stretches the length of the building.
Still in the Fiction room looking back toward the front of the library. I image that the Special Collections room was the original library room that was mentioned in Philura’s obituary.
Looking from the New Fiction room down the hallway.
Coloring station in the Children’s section.
Across from the coloring station are the children’s book shelves and bins.
Little people-sized library still life.
This was a neat surprise — a chair made from pennies!
Next to the Children’s Room is the Robert L. Crowell Reading Room. Bob, as he was called by those who knew him, was a library trustee, a past library board president, and benefactor of the library. He also wrote a local history book, Historic Newfane Village. He and his wife Muriel, donated land as well as their personal book collection to the library.
Bob passed away in 2001. His career had been in the book business and his grandfather was Thomas Y. Crowell, the first U.S. publisher of Tolstoy and Gogol.
The Kenny Clock, purchased in 1793, was handed down in the Kenny family. In 1920 the family decided the clock would be donated to the library upon the death of a descendant named Stella Austin Belleville and her (unnamed) daughter.
I thought the addition of the 15, 30, 45, and 60 was a more recent addition to clock faces but apparently not.
A surprising lift system. Always look up. You never know what you might see.
The last room of the library building is the Crowell Gallery. The artist whose work is currently on display is standing on the left. I believe she is Mary Therese Wright.
Looking from the gallery toward the front of the library.
A classic book holder.
Back at the front of the library.
We had to go upstairs and explore. We like this cozy little reading space.
Non-fiction upstairs. The door to the left is actually a massage therapist’s office. Yes, a massage therapist in a library. I’d never leave!
And because I wasn’t traveling solo, yours truly even gets to make an appearance in this post. Here I am pointing to Cather on the shelf.
Moore Free Library
23 West Street
Newfane, VT 05345
[This post was updated on May 11, 2022. The undated article was previously referred to as an obituary.]