Lemont Memorial Library celebrates centennial
Photos by Misha T. Kwasniewski/staff photographer
The front room of the Lamont Memorial Free Library, which was part of the original structure built in 1813. The library turns 100 this year and has planned a series of events this summer to mark the occasion and the completion of a four-year renovation project. The front room was renovated in the first phase of the project, which began in 2002. BELOW: The outside of the library.
BOTTOM: A close-up view of the first page from the minutes of the Lamont Memorial Free Library board of trustees’ original meeting entered April 9,1906.
McGRAW — The Lamont Memorial Free Library had about 1,000 books when it opened 100 years ago in the front living room of Daniel S. Lamont’s home.
It now has more than 13,000 books and other material throughout the house and in additions to the house. With the recent completion of a $334,000, four-year renovation project, the library has become more accessible for borrowing and researching history.
“It might have been a social center then, … a novelty for some,” said village Historian Mary Kimberly. “I don’t image the average person would have had a book other than a Bible.” Kimberly said records show that 133 books were circulated in July 1906. The library formally opened July 23 that year.
By 1912 there were almost 700 borrowers and more than 1,800 volumes of books. In 1917 magazines were added to the collection.
The annual report for 2005 lists 1,138 registered patrons. Katie Putnam, a village resident, said she visits the library at least once a week. She has used the library since 1953.
“It is really a lovely little library,” she said. “I’ve always liked to read.”
A retired kindergarten teacher at Marathon and McGraw, Putnam said she uses the Finger Lakes Interlibrary Loan system. She said she also borrows videos and DVDs from the library.
Donna Hatch, owner of Pratt Coal, said she also uses the library at least once a week. A patron for at least 14 years, she said she uses the library’s five public computers, takes out lots of books and uses the loan system.
“It’s made it a lot easier,” Hatch said of the changes. She said when she first used the library there were no computers. Now the library’s catalog can be accessed directly online, either at the library or at home. Hatch said she can find books easier using the computer. The library used to have a card catalog. Hatch said her two children also borrow materials a lot from the library.
The Lamont Library opened after the death of Elizabeth Lamont, who had been planning the library along with a board of trustees that had been meeting since April, said Mary Kimberly, the village’s historian. Daniel Lamont’s wife, Juliet Kinney Lamont, took over the conversion of the home into the library and two librarians were hired to organize the library when her mother-in-law died.
Now the library operates with one full-time librarian, a part-time children’s coordinator and volunteers. Kimberly said the library has only had eight librarians in 100 years with two librarians covering a total of 61 years — Florence Walter from 1923 to 1963 and Helen Cain 1963 to 1984.
The renovation work was paid for through donations and state and local grants. The additions converted a garage to shelve young children’s books and a 12-foot addition added a children’s activity room. A children’s area over the former garage was also added and a local history room was added to the north side of an addition to the building so that historical material would be accessible. It had previously been stored in an attic area that was only accessible by a narrow set of stairs.
The local history room houses several items of historical value to the library and former homestead, such as the 1906 board of trustee minute book and tin cans excavated from below the garage, as well as other McGraw memorabilia.
The house, originally owned by Samuel McGraw, was built sometime before 1830. The front of the house, including the living room, was a Greek revival addition to the original plank house. Kimberly said she was not sure if McGraw or John and Elizabeth Lamont, who bought the house in 1851, built the addition. The Lamont’s son Daniel Lamont became owner after his mother’s death.
“The Lamonts were very well thought of,” said Kimberly, noting that Daniel Lamont, who became President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of War, would hitch his private railroad car to a train returning home from Washington, D.C., and hold open houses in his home.
“I think he was very loyal to his hometown,” said Kimberly.
Kimberly said friends and relatives of the Lamonts have been invited to the July 8 community celebration. The library will also be open from 11 a.m. to noon for tours, Library Director Julie Widger said.
“We want to make it a big community event,” said Mona Petrella, the children’s coordinator at the library and part of the planning committee for the celebration. She said the planning group is also discussing a holiday program for Christmas to continue the library celebration, but nothing has been decided yet.
The usual summer story time will also incorporate the anniversary celebration, Widger said. This runs Fridays from July 7 through Aug. 4, also possible through a New York State Council of the Arts Decentralization Grant. “We will work it in to everything we do,” Widger said about the centennial.
The next project for the library is landscaping. Widger said the library has received a $2,500 donation toward the project. “There’s always something needed,” she said.
Lamont’s recent expansion
In 2002, the board of trustees began a three-phase capital project on the library.
l Phase one, the redecoration of the Greek revival front portion of the library, was completed in the fall of 2002 and repairs to the foundation and side porch were completed in 2003.
l During Phase two in 2004, the library underwent renovations to its rear portion, which is believed to be one of the first 11 residences in the village of McGraw, being constructed by 1813. The renovations moved the computer area to space immediately adjacent to the circulation desk to increase oversight by library staff and volunteers. A wall was removed enlarging the juvenile area and a kitchenette and handicap-accessible restroom were added where the old reference/periodical area was. New periodical shelving and bookshelves were installed for the young adult, reference room and juvenile areas. The existing attached garage was almost totally rebuilt to house the young children’s books and a new 12-foot addition was added to the area that is now the children’s activity room.
l Phase three featured the addition of a local history room, an enclosed wheelchair access ramp and a small storage room. This phase was completed in 2005.
A music series will commemorate the 100th anniversary. The music started Saturday and is funded through the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Grant Program, which is administered by the Cultural Resources Council of Syracuse and Onondaga County.
The celebration events are as follows:
l A 1940s type radio show will be held in conjunction with the celebration on June 12 at the Community Building on Clinton Street. Tom and Cindy Rasely, of McDonough, will perform.
l On July 8 the local band Bounty will play a variety of music from noon to 4 p.m. at Recreation Park on Clinton Street.
l On July 8 the McGraw Lions Club sponsors a picnic lunch of chicken barbecue, salads and desserts, with the profits benefiting the Lamont Library. There is also a cake decorating contest with the cakes being auctioned off after ribbons have been awarded.
The picnic also features old-time games, such as sack races and storytelling.
l The music series celebrating the library concludes Sept. 29 with Scott Adams and his “Acoustic Adirondack Music and Tales” 7 to 9 p.m. This will be held at the library.
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