For the Love of Reading
Libraries and philanthropy go hand-in-hand at Woodlawn from the new “Little Library” on our campus to the story of the Ellsworth Public Library.
Talented volunteer Fred Rea built us a sweet little book exchange library, resembling the Carriage Barn. It is near the Croquet parking lot. Bring a book, take a book!
In 1897, George Nixon Black, Jr., a generous donor in both Boston and Ellsworth, provided an important gift to his home city—a beautifully renovated building for Ellsworth’s public library.
What may have motivated Nixon to donate a library when one already existed? A.H. Davis’s “History of Ellsworth” indicates that the library moved at least three times in the decades prior to 1896, often sharing space with unrelated businesses. Perhaps the obvious need for a permanent location inspired him, along with a belief that Ellsworth deserved a library of which it could be proud.
Nixon and his close companion Charles Brooks Pitman, a trained architect, had seen magnificent libraries in Boston, New York, and Europe. They recognized that Ellsworth, as the seat of Hancock County, lacked a place that inspired reading and learning. Together, they envisioned transforming one of Ellsworth’s finest old houses, built in 1817 by Nixon’s great-grandfather, Melatiah Jordan (on his mother's side), into an impressive library. Charles drafted the plans and Nixon paid the bills.
In Woodlawn's archives, we have the 1896 “Catalogue of the Public Library of the City of Ellsworth” that may have been printed in anticipation of the library’s opening in 1897.
It is intriguing to see the range of titles Ellsworth’s citizens had to choose from for their reading pleasure. In addition to the expected novels, art, history, religion, and philosophy texts, there is an extensive section on “Useful Arts”. Topics range from Summer and its Diseases to Winter and its Dangers along with Talks about People’s Stomachs, A History of the Steam Engine, Wonders of Glassmaking, Tree Planting, and Brain Work and Overwork.
Thank you Fred, Nixon, and Charles.
Who doesn't love a library?