The first documented library in New Paltz was in the Old Fort on Huguenot Street. Sixty-two subscribers under the leadership of Dr. John Bogardus set up a library in 1817.
Each subscriber gave $3.50 and the annual dues were 25 cents. The New Paltz Independent in May 1883 published a list of the subscribers and a list of what was considered suitable reading by our predecessors. After the Academy was built on Huguenot Street in 1834 the library was moved there. It remained there until 1884 when the Academy burned to the ground. For the next 25 years small reading rooms were established by women’s organizations at various locations throughout the village. One such reading room was opened in 1894 by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union another in 1901 by the Ladies Aid Society of the Reformed Church. The February 1st, 1901 issue of the Independent states the following:
“Our progressive village has needed a library for many years; so it is with great pleasure that the Ladies Aid Society of the Reformed Church invite you to the opening of their public library in the church parlors, Friday evening Feb. 1 from 7 to 10 p.m.They will be open with a goodly number of volumes, including modern fiction, biography and books of travel. A charge of 5 cents will be made for drawing books. Ice cream and cake will be served during the evening.”
The Normal School library was totally destroyed in the fire of 1906. A temporary library was set up in the Solomon Deyo building on Main Street, along with the principal’s office and a science lab. In April 1907 men and young men of this vicinity and workers on the aqueduct were granted reading room privileges here. But, when the new Normal School building opened in January 1909, the women of the New Paltz Study Club were the first to realize the need for a free library association. A committee consisting of seven women opened a reading room on February 1st in the upper part of the building that was just vacated by the Normal School at 60-62 Main Street. These women were June Bliss, Katherine E. Hasbrouck, Laura M. DuBois, Mary S. Vanderlyn, Elizabeth A. LeFevre, Magdalene LF. Eltinge, and Lanetta E. DuBois. A tea was held at the opening, to which “all the residents of New Paltz were invited.” Many came, and found, on the tables, two daily newspapers, a number of magazines and about 75 books–gifts of friends. The committee then met and drew up a constitution with the object of “maintaining a circulating library and reading room for the public use of the people of New Paltz.”
The Study Club assumed the expenses of the reading room and had secured the services of Miss Flora Schoonmaker as librarian. When applying for a charter they realized that their location would not meet the standards set by the University of the State of New York. A new larger, first floor location was found in the Nathan VanWagenen building at 68 Main Street. Today, Gourmet Pizza is located there. On April 1st, 1909 a provisional charter was granted to the New Paltz Free Library by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. The village of New Paltz paid for the rent of the rooms. The Independent and Times of May 14, 1909 stated:
“The New Paltz Library is very conveniently located in the Nathan VanWagenen building situated on Main Street, near the post-office. It is a good place for any one to spend a short time while waiting for the trolley car. An attendant is constantly in charge. There are a great number of magazines and papers and some books. It is connected with the State Library at Albany.”
At the first annual election of the New Paltz Library Assiociation Mrs. Lanetta Elting DuBois was elected President; Mrs. Bruyn Hasbrouck, Vice-President; Mrs. Frank J. LeFevre, Corresponding Secretary; Miss Cornelia E. DuBois, Recording Secretary; and Mrs. Joseph H. Vanderlyn, Treasurer.
On December 2, 1915 the Regents of the University of the State of New York, being satisfied that the required conditions were met, granted the New Paltz Free Library an absolute charter to replace its provisional charter and to continue the corporation with all its powers, privileges and duties. This Absolute Charter now hangs in the Losee Reading Room.
In a few years, lack of space made it necessary to find more commodious quarters. By 1919 the holdings of the library had reached 3,000 books and the circulation was over 9,000. After Mrs. Theora Hasbrouck died in December 1919 the library trustees met and began negotiating for the purchase of her home at 93 Main St. Through the efforts of Mrs. Lanetta Elting DuBois, her cousin Mr. Philip LeFevre Elting of Chicago, gave $4000 to purchase the property, with the condition that the building be known as the Elting Memorial Library, on the understanding that proper provision be made for its equipment and maintenance.
Mr. Philip Elting (1882-1929) was born and raised in New Paltz, in the stone house that now is the home of the Locust Tree Inn. In the 1880’s he partnered with William Adams to form the Adams and Elting Company of Chicago. This company became a leader in paint manufacturing and became a subsidiary of Glidden Paint. His love of his boyhood home never subsided and his gift made possible the founding of the Elting Memorial Library at New Paltz, which stands today as a monument to his devotion to this community.
Although the year that the old stone house at 93 Main Street was built has yet to be determined, for many years it was known as the Solomon Elting homestead. Solomon Elting (1793-1849) was the great uncle of Philip Elting. In 1818 Solomon bought the house from a man named Thomas Owens and built a shed and store next door. Solomon ran this store until 1843 when his son Ezekiel took over. In 1850, Ezekiel Elting formed a partnership with Charles B. Hasbrouck, which continued until 1854. At that time Mr. Elting went to Highland and Mr. Hasbrouck continued the business alone. Charles B. Hasbrouck had the largest stock of goods and the largest trade of any merchant in the village. He ran the store until 1866 when he moved to New York. His brother, Clinton Hasbrouck, took over the property and ran the store with his son Oscar. Oscar C. Hasbrouck purchased the property in 1879, for $3000, and ran it until his death in 1899.
Oscar’s widow, Theora began taking boarders in the stone house and rented out the shed and store buildings. The January 19, 1906 issue of The Independent writes:
“The Mrs. Oscar C. Hasbrouck store property, with the shed adjoining
(but not including the residence) have been sold through Elting Harp’s
agency to John H. Hasbrouck and son Henry. We understand that Mr.
Bloomer will retain his meat market and other business which he has
been carrying on in the store building and that the Hasbrouck’s
will fit up the shed as for a carpenter shop.”
Theora Hasbrouck (1846-1919) was the last person to live in the house. Her obituary states:
“No lady in our village was better known than Mrs. Theora Hasbrouck. She was always cheerful and vivacious, with a vein of originality, which made her interesting and entertaining in conversation and she had a kind and sympathetic nature.” She was an avid gardener with a beautiful garden, later the scene of many garden parties and fund raisers for the library. After Philip Elting’s wonderful gift of the house, the trustees still needed to raise money for the equipment and maintenance of the building. Many fundraisers were held, including carnivals, garden parties, card parties and a collection of pennies a mile long. They collected waste paper and sold it by the carload and canvassed the community for contributions.
Myron Teller, an architect from Kingston, was hired to transform the house into a library and on Saturday October 9, 1920, the Elting Memorial Library was opened to the public. The formal dedication was held on Saturday October 16, 1920. Miss Carolyn Hillard, President of the Library Board of Trustees welcomed the crowd that gathered in front of the old house. Miss Ella McLaury gave a history of the library and on behalf of Philip Elting, his brother Victor presented the building to the village of New Paltz. Dr. Clarence Woolsey, President (Mayor) of the Village, accepted the gift with gracious words. Dr. John H. Finley, President of the University of the State of New York and friend of Victor Elting gave the keynote address. Dr. Finley presented the library with a copy of his book “The French in the Heart of America” on the title page of which he inscribed, “To the Elting Memorial Library, as a souvenir of my gratitude to Victor Elting, Esq., companion of my voyage over Western waterways in the wake of French explorers, whom I knew as Tonty and without whom this book would probably never have been written.” The library still has this book in its local history collection.
The October 21, 1920 Independent and Times invited the public to:
“Step through the little front yard under the locust trees and past
the lilac bushes, across the porch with the iron lantern overhead,
and the built in seats; and open the old fashioned double door with
the iron knocker; and you have stepped back a hundred years or
two, into a time when New Paltz was young, and among conditions
that still give our village a character of its own.
Already open to the public are the hall and the two rooms on the
left, quaint and charming with their rag rugs and spick and span coats
of white and yellow paint, and jars of posies. It is all old and yet new;
for here are the shelves of books, a link between us and the great world;
and here is our attentive librarian; and here New Paltz is prepared to
use her past history as a foundation, and to build thereon her future life
At first only the two rooms on the west side of the building were used. Shelves were added to the center hall and east room a few years later. The Fireplace room was refurnished in 1949 and used a children’s room. For many years a sign overhead read “For boys and girls.” In 1957, through the generous gifts of the friends of Gordon D. Pine, heat was extended to the second floor of the library and the west room and upper hall opened to the public. Two years later the east room on the second floor was opened as a magazine and reference room.
Since the original library lot only extended two feet from the east wall of the stone building, the trustees considered it vital that at some time the Library should own the store lot next door, that Theora had sold off in 1906. In 1922, again with monetary gifts from Philip and Victor Elting, the lot was purchased and the old store building torn down. Since then the library lot has also been enlarged by the purchase of two properties along North Front Street and the land along Church Street on which the library parking lot is located.
The first major addition to the library was a 46’ x 19’ wing added to provide the library with a much needed youth center. On July 7, 1962 the completed building, equipped and entirely paid for was dedicated. The astounding fact is that only one letter of appeal to the New Paltz community was sent and along with some newspaper publicity and a few personal contacts, over $25,000 was raised in 8 months. At the dedication Miss Helen Hasbrouck, on behalf of the New Paltz community, presented the new youth center to Mr. William Heidgerd, President of the Board of Trustees of the Elting Memorial Library Association. Dr. Charles S. Gosnell gave the address and Mrs. Edward S. Haviland (the former Mary S. Vanderlyn) unveiled the memorial plaque. Mrs. Haviland was the only remaining survivor of the original library committee of 1909.
Mary Stuart Vanderlyn Haviland was a generous supporter of the library for over 60 years. She contributed the money for the landscaping and stone wall that still remains today along Main Street and made repeated donations to develop the library’s local history collection. In January 1965 the local history collection was named the Mary Stuart Haviland History Collection, in her honor. The collection was housed in the east room on the second floor of the old building. The first director of the collection was William Heidgerd, a past President of the Board of Trustees and lover of local history and genealogy. The Board of Trustees recognized Mr. Heidgerd’s tireless efforts in behalf of the library in 1973, and renamed the local history collection, The Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection.
By the 1970’s not only had the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection outgrown its original space, so had the rest of the library. The population of the Town of New Paltz had doubled since the addition of 1962 and as a result so had the demand for library services and growth in library holdings. Under the leadership of its energetic Board President Karen Connor and newly hired Library Director John Giralico, plans for new addition were drawn up and a fund drive established. Through the outstanding efforts and generosity of the community, combined with a grant obtained through the Economic Development Administration, the new wing became a reality in 1978.
The headline of the November 22, 1978 issue of the Huguenot Herald newspaper read, “Town Toasts New Library Wing” and the headline in the New Paltz News of November 24, 1978 stated “Library Overwhelmed By Dedication Crowd” when reporting on the dedication ceremony of the new wing on Sunday, November 19th 1978. The new wing provided a new home for the Haviland-Heidgerd Historical Collection and enlarged children’s and reference area. Later that year the Board of Trustees named the new wing for Karen Connor, who board member Robert Kaelin said “has done more than anyone to get our new library wing built.” Also in December of 1978 The Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York amended the charter of the Elting Memorial Library, by changing the number of trustees from 9 to 12; and by including the entire Town of New Paltz in its service area.
Surprisingly in its 100 year history, The Elting Memorial Library has only had seven librarians. Miss Flora Schoonmaker, our first librarian, served from 1909 to 1911. Catherine Deyo Schoonmaker, the wife of Flora’s cousin Edmund, served from 1911 to 1933. Mrs. Carrie Vail held the position for nearly 13 years and then Marion Allen for less than three. In 1948 Miss Jennie Lee Dann began her 9 years as librarian. On December 1, 1957 Mrs. Janet Bracken assumed the position, serving until 1974 when our present Director, John Giralico began his tenure.
Throughout the one hundred years, the Library has held some memorable and successful fund raisers. Some of the first fund raisers were annual library plays held first in the Opera House (now Barnaby’s) and later in the college auditorium, where members of the community would participate in a musical production. Card parties and lawn parties held in the homes of community members were also very popular. The Library Garden was a popular spot to hold garden party fund-raisers and plant sales. In November 1933 the first tag day was held. Over $75 was collected that day and it was soon decided to make it an annual tradition. For several years the library held a cocktail party. These parties resulted in the publishing of a library cookbook, in which appetizer recipes were shared by the cooks who filled the library with delicious finger foods at the yearly event.
By far the biggest and most successful of all library fund raisers has been the annual library fair. The first Library Fair was held on August 4th, 1956 and was held in conjunction with the opening of the library for Stone House Day. Mrs. Willett Porter was the general chairman of the first fair. Mrs. Cllfford Hoppenstedt and Mrs. Louis DuBois served punch and homemade cookies. Mrs. Ben Matteson and Mrs. David Jewett, had the book table which featured both old and new books. Miss Amy Hepburn and Mrs. Stanley Osborne were in charge of a table of gifts from friends of the library. Ben Matteson put together a New Paltz Craftsmen’s table which displayed many locally made items. Jennie Lee Dann was president of the New Paltz Art Association at the time and she convinced them to hold their summer show as a feature of the fair. This fair netted a profit of $439 dollars. The second year the profits nearly doubled, to $833. Today the fair raises over $20,000 for the library.
Over the years the library has depended on its wonderful volunteers to keep help with its many fundraisers and day to day activities. From the ladies of the Study Club, who opened the reading room in 1909, to the volunteers of today, the library is forever grateful. The library was also been blessed with some wonderful staff members over the years. A generation of New Paltz children grew up under the watchful eyes of long time children’s librarian Tillie Moerbeek. Irene Martin headed the historical collection from 1974 to 1996. Jane Relyea, Doris Bartow, Catherine Thompson, Marion Ryan and Marie Wiersum are only a few of the many outstanding employees that have worked at the library over the past 100 years.
By far the biggest and most ambitious project taken on by the library community was the recent expansion project, which tripled the size of the library in 2006. Although the need of a major addition to the library was apparent and many designs made for it, a serious effort for expansion did not begin until the year 2000. From that year to January 2005, the library board, in consultation with various members of the community, worked to identify potential solutions to meet the library’s growing need for additional space and new technology. By the time the public campaign was launched, over $2.2 million had already been given or pledged to the project. In January 2005 the Board of Trustees launched “From The Past The Future Grows: The Campaign To Expand The Elting Library.” Their goal was to raise $3.5 million to renovate the existing building, substantially increase usable space and bring the Elting Memorial Library into the twenty-first century. Under the leadership of Board President Sally Rhoads the money was raised and the newly expanded library opened its doors on August 7th, 2006.