New Boston's Whipple Free Library
(written by Mary Atai, New Boston Historical Society)
By 1874, New Boston residents were realizing the need for a town library. A small group of men bought a number of books. They kept them in the private home of Niel McLane, who lived in the center of the village. They were to be used only by members of that group, however. These books were all lost in the massive village fire of 1887.
1888 — the First Public Library
The first public library was in the corner room at Dodge’s store, behind the creamery wagon in this photo.
Following the fire, J.R. Whipple, the millionaire owner of Valley View Farm and three hotels in Boston, built the business block that includes Dodge's Store. Here, he installed a collection of 1,800 books. He maintained it as a public library.
When Mr. Whipple died in 1912, his widow and daughter gave the contents of the library to the town. In 1918, Mrs. Charles Rogers, a descendant of Priest Bradford, the second minister of the town, donated 162 books, which were added to J.R. Whipple's library collection.
Elsie Warren and Sarah Chapman
Miss Lena Shearer was the first librarian, serving until 1916. Then Miss Elsie Warren took over, and she stayed in that position for 41 years. Our town has had ten librarians, thus far. Our longest-serving library director, Sarah Chapman, held the position for 47 years, surpassing Miss Warren. We lost Sarah in 2022.
1927 — the First Free-standing Library
The 1982 Hayes-Warren addition is to the left of the 1927 Wason Memorial Building
In 1927, the square brick building in the center of the village was built as the Wason Family Memorial and given to the town by the three sons of George Austin Wason and his wife, Clara Louise Hills Wason. Robert, George, and Edward wanted to memorialize their parents, who had given much to the town. This was the first free-standing library.
The Wason Family
The dedication was on October 12, 1927, and the ceremony was attended by more than 500 people. In presenting the Wason Building to the town, Congressman Edward Wason said that it was the family's goal to provide "every reasonable stimulus for literary culture and development of the mind." He also quoted Sir Francis Bacon: "Reading maketh a full man."
Marjorie Bose at the check-out desk, 1960s
A meeting in the Wason Memorial Building
This library served the town well for many years as the population continued to grow. In 1966, Reg and Beulah Hayes organized "The Friends of the Library," a support group to raise money and provide for the library's needs. Still by the 1970s more space was needed. Solutions were studied, and after the generous donation of the land behind the Wason building by Randy and Gail Parker, owners of the nearby historic grist mill, an addition was built.
This was completed in 1982 and was known as the Hayes-Warren addition, named in honor of Reg and Beulah Hayes and Miss Elsie Warren. This increased the space from 800 square feet to 2800 square feet.
This worked well for a while, but by 1996, a building committee was appointed to develop a plan to add more space. Warrant articles were placed yearly to try to raise money for a new library, but they were voted down year after year. Finally, the new library was built using donations and donated services.
2010 — the New Library
Excerpt from a flyer asking townspeople to vote for a new library. The vote did not pass.
The Whipple Free Library Foundation was created to raise private funds to build a new library. Many, many people gave of their skills, including Roger Dignard, who donated all the architectural work and Gerry Perron, who donated all the air conditioning and plumbing, as well as Gordon Russell, who gave the money for the large community room.
Note that the completed building is 7,000 square feet, due to donations from people in the community.
Many, many people gave of their skills, including Roger Dignard, who donated all the architectural work and Gerry Perron, who donated all the air conditioning and plumbing, as well as Gordon Russell, who gave the money for the large community room.
Site work began in August 2009 and the grand opening was in May 2010. At 7,000 square feet, it is 2 ½ times the size of the former library and offers a large conference room, a children's library, a young adult area, as well as a huge community room.
Karen Salerno, a local artist, and library trustee at the time, designed the beautiful weathervane, which is a heron in flight, guardian of the river that passes by the library. This beautiful library is another jewel in New Boston's crown and continues to support the cultural and educational needs of our community.