December 2010 Archives

When war broke out in the 1940s, the library switched gears.  Classes were given in First Aid  and Victory Garden exhibitions were given in the art gallery. (Franklin Simon employees even planted a Victory Garden on our current property!) A vacant store north of the library was used as a receiving station for 31,000 books, which were donated to the Victory Book Campaign and sent to soldiers overseas.

Once again it was determined that the library had outgrown its space by 1950.  Miss Hurlbutt and the town undertook a $600,000 capital campaign to enlarge the Greenwich Avenue building.  However, the campaign failed to achieve its goal - only $263,000 was raised.   Unfortunately, It had to compete with Greenwich Hospital, which had hired professionals to run its campaign.  The Board put the money raised into a bank account until a year later when it decided the recently vacated Franklin Simon Store would make a good library.  The town stepped in and appropriated $100,000 to "prime the pump". A second capital campaign  achieved its goal.  As a result, the library moved from the little building on Greenwich Avenue to its present location on March 14, 1960.

The Library Board undertook several smaller capital campaigns from the 1960s to 1990s.  In 1969, the Cole Auditorium was built.  It was constructed in such a way that a second floor could be built above it.  This is exactly what happened in 1981 following the "Raise the Roof" capital campaign (1978).  A second floor and mezzanine (with 9 study rooms) were added.  In 1983 another mezzanine in the Periodicals area was added, and still later second floor offices and a Cafe were built.

Then suddenly in 1992, the library received a $25 million bequest from Mrs. Clementine Lockwood Peterson - the largest gift ever to a public library.  An independent Foundation was created to disburse the funds, and expand the business and music collection.  The library used $16.5 million to build the 32,000 sq ft addition known as the Peterson Wing. 

During this time, another capital campaign was launched to renovate and modernize the old building.  The Board was concerned about service and the fast-changing state of technology.  Once again the residents cast a vote of confidence in the library by donating $11,250,000, which was used to update the libraries computer technology.  This involved buying adjacent property, which had been used by a Cadillac dealership, to greatly expand the parking lot.The Peterson Wing was officially opened on June 12, 1999 and the renovation of the old building was completed in 2000.  I think it's fair to call The Greenwich Library the "jewel" of Greenwich - one of its most important resources.

As the Library looks to the future, it's striving to keep current with change. The library is composed of a variety of groups, which work well with each other in implementing new programs and services. Resources Management makes sure the Library can provide current print and electronic materials. Lending Services make sure materials are available.   The Technical Training Center provides the public with training on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs. The Teen Committee  finds ways to engage Teens with Wii, Guitar Hero and other  programs.   Ed Morrissey has worked hard to expand ADA Technology. Librarians help patrons use electronic and print materials. The IT Department makes sure library hardware works properly.  Public Relations makes sure information gets out on materials and programs.  Many people participate in more than one area.  Custodians make sure the facility is clean and serviceable.  In addition to their regular duties, they've taken on additional work. 

Interestingly enough, the library may actually experience a period of expanding space!  Technology has led to smaller size in the case of CDs, DVDs and even books.  (You can fit many books onto downloadable devices.)  This may free up shelf and other space for other purposes (e.g. Teen Center).

It's safe to say, Greenwich Library will continue to grow and change as technology changes.  It may look a little different, but it will still be the same cultural center we all love.



Greenwich Library; Peterson, Harry N.; Chicago, ALA, 1962

Greenwich Library; Nicholson, M.; Greenwich, OHP, 1976

The Greenwich Library Since 1960: Cole, Marie and Nolan Lushington; Greenwich,OHP, 1978

I decided to research the history of The Greenwich Library, and write about it in my blog.  As a result, I ended up using 3 different sources. The most recent history of the library is sufficiently recorded (1960 to present)in one source.  I found the early history (1800 to 1960) distributed between two other sources, which are cited at the end of this blog. The history is important because it helps us understand how the library developed into what it is today and what it will become in the future.

In the early 1800s, a group of concerned citizens started collecting books to share.  Then, in 1805, a Town Library was opened in the Ebenezer Mead House at the foot of Put's Hill (near Cos Cob).  This was  a "subscription library".  The library sold subscriptions for $6 per share. People paid $3 at the initial subscribing, then $3 six months later.  The money was used to buy new books.  When thirty people had joined, they would elect officers to direct the business of the library.  A patron could borrow 1 book per share. Unfortunately, interest waned in the library, and the books were scattered amongst the subscribers.  A public-spirited patron came to the rescue, however, collected all the books and gave them to the Second Congregational Church for safe keeping.  These books were incorporated into the church collection and circulated after the Thursday evening prayer meetings.

The library flourished during this period, and several hard-working citizens wanted to establish "a library and reading room, open to all, as a means of general culture".  In 1878  the first Greenwich Library and Reading Room Association was incorporated by the General Assembly, with the proviso that non-subscribers (the general public) could use the books on the premises.  It was located at the future headquarters of the Putnam Trust Company.  Unfortunately, the number of subscription patrons declined as the general public could use the books on site.  The Board had to pursue other fund-raising activities such as concerts, oyster suppers, bazaars and lectures.  Eventually, in 1884, the operation moved to the Ray Building on the southeast corner of Greenwich Avenue and Lewis Street, which offered more space. 

Fortunately, Mrs. Elizabeth Milbank Anderson offered a gift in memory of her mother - Mrs. Jeremiah Milbank. She offered to provide money to build a new library if the library administration could find a plot of land to build it on.   After an unsuccessful capital drive, the residents raised $11,500 and the town also chipped in a fair amount. The land where Saks Fifth Avenue resides today was the site of this new Greenwich Reading Room and Library Association.  In 1899 it was re-incorporated as The Greenwich Library.  Although Mrs. Anderson had requested it to be a free library open to all, the administration was slow in implementing this. 

In 1901 the library received a permanent endowment of $25,000 from some prominent citizens.  Mrs. Anderson offered an additional $10,000 donation if the residents would match it.  The public rose to the occassion.  By 1907 the General Assembly passed legislation to officially name the Reading Association "The Greenwich Library". In 1917, the Library asked the town for help.  The library needed assistance with operating expenses.  Greenwich appropriated money ($1,000) for library operations for the first time.

Approximately $125,000 was raised from private funds to build an addition on the Greenwich Avenue building in 1929.  The town appropriated $36,000 for the library in the following year.  Head Librarian Isabelle Hurlbutt approached local corporations for support, and thus began a long relationship with the business community.  A new addition was added to the library on Greenwich Avenue, which provided much needed space.

From 1930 to 1950, the library gradually grew until it was faced with another space problem!  This was about the time Miss Isabelle Hurlbut was hired as head Librarian.  Under her guidance, library services grew exponentially.  Satellite operations were set up in Cos Cob and Byram.  The collection in the main library doubled in two years.  Free Sunday afternoon concerts were added.  The first Bookmobile was added - a second-hand Ford canopy express.  Two new school libraries were at Hamilton Avenue and Riverside Schools.



Greenwich Library; Peterson, Harry N.; Chicago, ALA, 1962

Greenwich Library; Nicholson, M.; Greenwich, OHP, 1976

The Greenwich Library Since 1960: Cole, Marie and Nolan Lushington; Greenwich,OHP, 1978

Greenwich, Inc.

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A friend recently asked me when Greenwich became a town. I thought that this would be a rather simple question to research, but it turned out to be somewhat complicated! The short answer is that The General Court established Greenwich as an independent township on May 11,1665 after being petitioned by Greenwich residents.

"That wasn't so hard", you say. The problem lies in the fact that some of the various "villages" which make up Greenwich today - Old Greenwich, Riverside, Cos Cob, Greenwich, Byram, Glenville, Stanwich - were not entirely established at the time the town was incorporated.  Furthermore, it took years to straighten out boundary disputes with Stamford and New York. To fully understand how and why "Greenwich" became one town, it's necessary to delve into its history a bit.


The story begins when Captain Daniel Patrick and Robert Feak bartered with the American-Natives (Native-Americans) to purchase land in what we now call Old Greenwich. Over time it's been called "Old Town", "Sound Beach" and even "Greenwich". Elizabeth Feak also managed to buy Monkawego (Greenwich Point) as part of the deal. Patrick and Feak had left the Massachusetts Bay Colony because of the strict, Puritanical lifestyle. Many followed. People from Stamford also migrated to Old Greenwich, and joined in establishing an agrarian (farming) community.


 As with many New England towns, villages grew up along coastal tidal basins and rivers. Settlers wanted to take advantage of proximity to the water for transportation. Later, the waterways would play an important role in hydroelectric power generation. In the case of North Mianus and Cos Cob, boats were used to transport fruit and vegetables as well as lumber and shellfish to markets in New York and along the Long Island Sound Shore. Small business centers beagn to "pop up" along the Mianus River, for example. Early on, the Upper Landing in North Mianus was the center of business in Greenwich due to its proximity to "Old King's Highway" (part of Palmer Hill Road). Then the Lower Landing at Cos Cob became predominant.


About this time, the Dutch were well-established in New York and claimed all the land as far east as the Connecticut River as their own. Residents complained, and in 1650 it was agreed that Greenwich would fall under the New Haven Colony. The Court noted in 1656 that Greenwich was "disorderly, riotous, gave liquor to the American-Natives, harbored escaped servants and were unlawfully married". Greenwich residents were expected to attend religious meetings in Stamford as a means of redemption! Although Greenwich was anxious to be independent, the General Court, located in New Haven at that time, considered it part of Stamford! Eventually, the General Court mellowed, and after being petitioned by residents, on May 11, 1665, the General Court now located in Hartford established Greenwich as an independent township.

Now, some villages were just developing, and some were at different stages in their growth. In 1669, the Town Meeting decided to establish a settlement in "Horseneck". This was a section of central Greenwich. In 1686, once again land was purchased from the Native-Americans. Lots were laid out, and "27 Proprietors" purchased the property. It's interesting to note that the central business district was first located at the end of Mechanic Street (or Sherwood Place) because a bicycle factory was opened there. Eventually, businesses shifted down to Greenwich Avenue, and goods were shipped by boat from the end of Steamboat Road. It wasn't too long before central Greenwich permanently became the business center.

Meanwhile, Byram, or East Port Chester, was greatly influenced by Port Chester. It eventually became the overflow community for manufacturing and immigrants Glenville had a similar history. Immigrants from Poland and Italy came to Greenwich to work for the wealthy, who needed masons, landscapers and domestic help.  Eventually, they worked in mills and factories along the Byram River. The American Felt Mill in Glenville was one example. Stanwich became an important community since it was the home to Miss Purdy's School for young women. A stagecoach line was even established to take young girls from the train in Greenwich to Stanwich.  Stanwich even had its own inn!  It's safe to say that these villages developed independently over time. It's also interesting to note that each village has its own personality and history. Although Greenwich was incorporated as a town early on, it's made up of diverse communities which continue to grow and change. This contributes to Greenwich's rich, diverse culture, which seems to be unique in each community or village. 

Another factor, which I failed to mention earlier, is that the incorporation of Greenwich came out of a desire to consolidate finances as well as public works. It made more sense to centralize the affairs of the several villages within its boundaries. Besides, depending on the community, individual neighborhoods lacked the resources to handle their affairs. The more efficient way was to have one central government raise revenue and take care of business for the entire town.This just goes to show you that being a "town" involves more than just having a government document. Every facet of community life has to be considered.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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