History of the Library
The first library, established in the town of Newport, was originated by Dr. John M. Currier in the spring of 1862. He conceived of the plan for a circulating library by having each member take two dollars' worth of stock and allowing stockholders to pay for their shares in books. Some of the books belonging to the first library passed along down through all the later organizations and are now found in the Goodrich library.
Plans for the present library were mapped out in 1896, when the late C. G. Goodrich and his wife made provisions that they would leave a piece of property to found and maintain a Free Public Library in Newport. The piece of land was worth $6,000 and was well located on the Sherman lot on Main St.
Building operations were begun in the spring of 1898 on an edifice of brick with stone trimmings. The structure, which provided for book space, two public reading rooms and a librarian's room downstairs, ample basement room, second-floor art room, trustees room, conversation room, and assembly hall to be used for educational purposes, was to cost $20,000. Fifteen thousand volumes were to be put in when the building was completed. In case of the death of Mr. and Mrs. Goodrich before the beginning of the library, it was provided that a generous fund go to the trustees for the upkeep of the library.
Mr. Goodrich came to Vermont from New Hampshire when he was 11. Born in 1820, he was educated in Wolcott and Albany. He was a school teacher and a farmer before coming to Newport as a merchant. During his residence of over 45 years, he held several public positions, serving as constable, collector of taxes, and superintendent of schools for the town. He was also a justice of the peace for over 35 years. The late Mrs. Goodrich, too, was active in civic affairs.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Goodrich passed away before the library was dedicated on September 1, 1899. The building, furnishings, books, etc., including the services of Miss Mary L. Titcomb of Rutland, Vt., secretary of the state library commission, who classified and catalogued the books, cost about $33,000 and there remained nearly $32,000 for an endowment fund "to keep the library in good condition for many years to come."
According to a report of the first Librarian, Miss Lizzie M. Sargent, the library actually opened with an inventory of about 6,500 books. At present there are over 10,000 books, including some rare volumes, among them 'Vermont historical works given by the late Andrew Zabriskie. From time to time the library has received small legacies. Among the donators have been J. H. Kirkpatrick, Dr. J. H. Gaines, the W. W. True estate, and the Fred Blake memorial. The upkeep of the library is maintained by the above, by the provisions of the donor, and the yearly appropriations of the Town and City of Newport. Many memorial books have been given also.
The finest materials were used throughout the building "fireplaces fashioned out of fancy colored brick, rooms finished in red birch, Georgia pine, Cypress, native spruce, Swanton marble, with furnishings in quartered oak, and in harmony with the surroundings."
The upstairs hall contains the D. W. Hildreth museum collection of birds and animals, and a few other gifts. Several paintings by the late Sidney Slee are on display in the art room, and masterpieces of art are shown courtesy of donors. The Grand Army flag is a gift of the Baxter post.
The first board of library trustees (chosen by Mr. Goodrich) consisted of Elisha Lane, Charles A. Prouty and C. H. Brady. Succeeding Miss Sargent, who served as librarian for 30 years, was her assistant, the late Mrs. Ralph Mosher who served from 1930 to 1942. Miss Laura Stone devotedly served in that position from then until the fall of 1967 when she moved to California, and was succeeded by Mrs. Calvin Knowlton.
The present trustees have, during the past year, completed a major ADA and restoration program which included the installation of a new lift at the rear of the building, new bookshelves in the stack room, new carpeting throughout the building, and after a period of being absent the original library desk
The story of the library is not too different from the average institution of that type. The books are cared for year after year, and the librarians develop a larger than ever capacity for hard work and patience. One of the darker moments of the library was during the depression, when stock invested by Mr. Goodrich was rendered worthless in the bank crash. In 1933 a thief broke into the museum and departed with most of the gold of the coin collection which was given the library by Judge Riley Wright. The thief later served his term in prison.
On November 23, 1983, the library was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.