Athol Daily News – Libraries have fascinating stories
Published: 05/29/2021 5:09:42 PM
Modified: 5/29/2021 5:09:41 PM
Libraries dot the landscape in the Quabbin area. These bastions of books and knowledge also have a unique history in themselves.
The Wheeler Memorial Library in Orange was built in 1914 and funded by Almira Wheeler in memory of her late husband, Mr. John Wheeler. “She funded it entirely on her own and sold it to the city for $ 1. She and Mr. Wheeler were big supporters of education and learning, so she felt the library was a fitting memorial for him, ”said Jessica Magelaner, director of the Wheeler Memorial Library and Moore Leland Library. in Orange. “The architect was HM Francis of Fitchburg and the style of the building is an adaptation of the French Renaissance,” said Magelaner, adding that the cost of the completed building at the time was around $ 50,000.
The Wheeler Library, she continued, is currently sixth on the state’s waiting list for renovations. Among the planned renovations is the completion of the second floor of the library, which will house the children’s bedroom. Mrs. Wheeler remarried a Mr. Thompson, who was prominent in the local spiritualist community. He convinced her to stop spending money on her late husband’s memorial library. the library was supposed to have a second floor, but funding was cut before the second floor was built. So instead, the library has a very odd little mezzanine which is accessed through the attic and used for reference books and a storage area, ”explained Magelaner.
The library originally had 3,000 books from a former public library in the city that was founded in 1868, she said. This collection was moved to several locations before being transferred to the Wheeler Memorial Library.
Other planned renovations include plans to expand the building to create a local community hall, study rooms, as well as to create a bookshelf. An entrance is provided from the car park as well as an elevator to make the library accessible to people with reduced mobility.
Currently, the library is open during normal hours but the shelves are closed as well as the local history area, children’s room and bathrooms. All will reopen on June 14. The library will follow all local and national health regulations related to COVID-19.
Another library with a fascinating past is the Phillips Free Public Library in Phillipston. This library came into being in 1800 when the town’s moderator, Charles Baker, called a meeting to form the “Library Society”. The company was formed at that time because the books were very expensive.
The library itself was established in 1860, thanks to the donation of Jonathan Phillips Esq. of $ 5,000, with interest on that money to be used for books. Phillips was the nephew of Lieutenant Governor William Phillips Jr., whose town was named after. There is a painting of Phillips as well as former librarian Tina Chaffin in the library, according to Jackie Prime, director of the Phillipston Library.
The library opened in 1862 in Gould’s Tavern in the township, then in 1862 it moved to librarian Tina Chaffin on Baldwinville Road and in 1891 moved to town hall, according to Jane French, curator of the Phillipston Historical Society.
The early books in the library included books on agriculture, a dictionary, a set of encyclopedia, books on historical periods as well as novels by classic writers such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne, she said. declared. A small museum was added in 1899, with donations from various people. In 1891, 8,000 volumes were in the library, according to French. The library moved to its current location, the former No.1 school in the town, in 1952.
The Phillips Free Public Library will reopen again on June 1, according to Prime. Again, the library will follow all local and national health regulations related to COVID-19.
Carla Charter is a freelance writer for Phillipston. His writing focuses on history with a particular interest in the history of the North Quabbin region.