Old Library

Prepared by the Historical Commission, the full version of the report (PDF) is available online.

The Beginning

What we now call the Old Library was Weston’s first library building. The library itself was established in 1857 and originally occupied one room of the 1847 Town Hall across the street. After the Civil War, the Town Hall was expanded to provide additional library space and a memorial hall. But by the late 1880s, despite one more expansion, it was clear that the library was outgrowing its quarters.

In early 1894, the Town purchased the George W. Cutting house as a library site, but plans for a new library were delayed by the need for a new high school. Rev. Charles Russell, minister at First Parish Church, was an eloquent advocate for a new library building separate from the Town Hall, writing as follows:

And yet the need is imminent. Already the present accommodations are crowded . . . But whatever happens, let us hope that the library will not be tucked into the rear of a new town hall. . . At any cost make it the great centre of intellectual life, the University of our Town---free, accessible, beautiful.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, prominent libraries were the sign of a cultured citizenry. Weston was growing to be a desirable town in the late 19th century, and more and more wealthy and influential Boston businessmen and professionals were moving here. These men played a role in urging the Town to proceed despite concerns about cost.

The following is one of many appeals to residents:

Finally, it seems impossible that the Town of Weston with all its culture, intelligence, and wealth, should remain longer content with the present crowded and unsatisfactory quarters for the Library. We urge that the time has come when the Town should erect a simple, dignified building that will rebound to its credit, and make the Library, as it should be, one of the leading features and most potent attractions of its civic life.

Finally, in 1899, the Town voted to proceed and allocated $40,000 for construction. The building committee hired the Boston firm of Fox, Jenney, and Gale, in part because two of the three young principals, Thomas A. Fox and Alexander S. Jenney, had been associated with Charles McKim in the construction of the Boston Public Library. Work began in November 1899 and was completed exactly one year later.

The pride of the Town is evident in the ornamental stone plaque next to the door, reading Weston Public Library, founded AD 1857. This building was built by the town, 1899

The all-capital letters in the word town emphasize the fact that all residents had contributed. A 1908 history of Middlesex County called it “a splendid monument to the culture and refinement of the citizens of Weston.”

Cultural Impact
On the first floor, the large reading room was lighted on three sides by mullioned windows and featured exposed oak beams and walls tinted green with bands of white and red. The original children’s alcove was to the right of the main entrance. Above the children’s room was a small office for the Trustees. Basement space was allocated for future book storage and a fireproof storage room for town records.

Weston has one of the earliest libraries to be fully electrified. The librarian could turn on and off almost all the lights from a single switch at her desk. The new library had a modern open stack system, and the Dewey decimal system was adopted to help patrons locate their own books.

The building of the library had an impact on literacy and cultural awareness. The librarian, Elizabeth S. White, noted a marked increase in circulation and increased use of books by the schools. In 1900, the library became a member of the Massachusetts Library Art Club, which circulated collections of pictures for exhibition at intervals during the year. Thus the cultural mission of the library was broadened.

The children’s alcove became so popular that in 1912 the trustees called for its enlargement. Space in the lower level became available when the town clerk moved to the new Town Hall. Encouraged by a gift of $5,000 from library Trustee Miss Louisa Case, the space was remodeled in 1922 into a children’s room named for her niece, Rosamond Freeman. A handsome Tudor porch was added to mark the entrance to the children’s area.

Present Day
The 1899 Library served the Town for nearly a century, until 1996, when the present building was constructed. Since that time, the Old Library has been used sporadically, for town offices when Town Hall was renovated, for recreation offices and programs, and even for Halloween haunted houses, all the while awaiting a new use.

CPA funds were released at the 2011 Annual Town Meeting to fund emergency repairs to the roof and other structural matters.

Currently a request for letters of interest has been issued by the town for the re-use of this.