Library History

At this very moment in time the library's age is:
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The idea for a town library originated with Miss D. May Howard, a teacher in a school south of Westport. In the winter of 1884-1885 she presented her plan to the high school faculty who enthusiastically endorsed it. There were three teachers in the high school at that time, Mr Charles F. Chisholm, Miss Kate Rogers, and Miss Linda Bathen.

Townspeople soon joined in the drive to raise funds, selling membership tickets and holding entertainments and socials at the homes of people interested in having a library. Many young people also contributed by putting on plays and organizing concerts in the armory which had recently been fitted with a stage and seats. In a few months $50.00 had been raised which was invested in books. Additional books were also donated.

Membership Card
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In April the library opened in a wing of Amos Prescott's home with 84 volumes. Amos's daughter, Louisa, acted as librarian and did so for another three years.

First Library Books
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The library's holdings increased to 237 volumes and the library gained a catalog in the form of a small bound book.

Catalog Cover
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Miss Alice Lee, who owned the prestigious Westport Inn, began taking an active part in the growing library. By personal effort she raised $1,100 in subscriptions, gifts of cash, and donated labor from the village, and another $1,400 from friends outside the village.

On November 30th, the Westport Library Association was incorporated under general law.

The land now occupied by the library was deeded by Freeborn and Anne Page to the Westport Library Association for the sum of $900.00. The land included the site of Person's Hotel which had burned. The deed stated that a building was to be erected for the use of a library and that the remainder of the land was to be maintained by the Westport Library Association as a park for the use of the people of Westport. If these provisions were not carried out, the land was to revert to the Page family.

Miss Alic Lee 1887
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The library building was designed by the architectural firm of Andrews and Jacques of Boston and subsequently constructed by David A. Clark.

The building was dedicated on July 26, 1888.

Library Opening
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On July 21st, the New York State Board of Regents granted the library a permanent charter.

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Through the efforts of Miss Alice Lee and others, funds were raised for an addition which would provide an entertainment hall and rooms for the Town of Westport offices.

Brigadier General John Tyler Cutting, who had been born in Westport, was persuaded by Miss Lee to help finance the new addition. General Cutting, a Civil War veteran, had moved to California (where he was an Oldsmobile dealer and was involved in that state's politics), but he nevertheless contributed about $5,000 and requested that the hall be known as the John Tyler Cutting Memorial Hall.

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The John Tyler Cutting Memorial Hall was dedicated in 1908, the same year that Mrs. Robert C. Black had the clock tower erected and the clock installed.

For many years the Cutting Hall was Westport's social center. A variety of events were held there:

  • The Fireman's Annual Supper and Dance
  • The Masonic Easter Ball
  • Church Fairs
  • Talent Shows
  • The Camp Dudley Annual Summer Show
  • A variety of school activities:
    • basketball
    • senior plays
    • school dances
    • commencement ceremonies

There was also an annual Grand Summer Ball to benefit the library. This event was attended almost exclusively by the summer residents and prominent citizens of Westport, all wearing evening attire.

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Another addition was built in which moving-pictures were shown regularly, and during the days of the silent movies, a local lady would play the piano to accompany the films. In those days, many residents of the Adirondacks had to travel many miles to enjoy a motion picture theater, so this was a great treat for the people of Westport.

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The first meeting to study the possibility of a multi-county library service was held at Champlain College Library on May 31st, with Mr. Josiah T. Newcomb presiding.

Mr. Newcomb appointed a committee to draw up a tentative plan for a multi-county library service to serve as a basis for future discussion.

The committee was called the Tri-County Library committee.

Out of this would evolve the present day Clinton Franklin Library System of which the Westport Library Association is a member.

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Although the Cutting Memorial Hall had served a real community need for the previous four decades, as time passed its usefulness diminished. The building was also in constant need of repairs. Eventually the hall was no longer in much use. Reasons for this were due in part to:

  • The Grange Hall had been built
  • The Baptist Church had also acquired a hall for suppers and fairs
  • The school district had become centralized and the Westport Central School had its own facilities for school activities

At this time movies in the Cutting Memorial Hall were also discontinued. This was necessary because the costs of complying with stringent fire regulations for places of public assembly were too prohibitive.

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The Westport Library Association becomes one of the first five libraries in Essex County to sign a contract with the new Clinton-Essex County Service System (which would evolve into the present Clinton Essex Franklin Library System).

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It was found that extensive repairs to the building were necessary and major alterations were undertaken. The cost of the project was $25,000.00. Under Mrs. Harris' leadership there was an all-out public subscription drive as well as card parties, block dances, carnivals, rummage sales, and raffles to raise the necessary funds.

The remodeling consisted of removal of parts of the building, including a portion of the east wing of the Cutting Memorial Hall. This included the part of the building containing the stage plus the two ground floor rooms below it. Beneath the remodeled part of the building on the lower level, space was provided for rooms that could be used for various purposes.

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Work on the remodeling project was completed, the result leaving a long room furnished as a reading and meeting room.

The removal of the east wing, made necessary because of the cost of upkeep, marked the end of an era that went back more than seventy years. For the majority of those years, the building had served the town as the most available place for public entertainments.

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The architectural firm of Crawford & Stearns of Syracuse, New York, completes a comprehensive assessment of the library building and submits recommendations in a report entitled "An Historic Structures Report - The Westport Library"

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Crawford & Stearns submits renovation plans and construction specifications.

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January: The library wins a major State construction grant to help in meeting the costs of the planned building renovations.

March: Estimates for renovations are received from Crawford & Stearns.

October: Contractors submit bids for undertaking the renovations.

November: Bessoboro Builders are selected to complete the renovations.

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January: Local fund raising for the renovation project is successful to the degree that inside renovations are able to begin.

October: Outside renovations begin.

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Renovatons are completed.

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