History of the Lee Public Library

June 29th, 2013 by Katie Pate

If you have an interest in American history or architecture, make sure to leave a little time during your Berkshires vacation to visit the Lee Library. A beautiful, quiet and historic place, stop in to browse the shelves or enjoy a quiet place to read for a while.

The Lee Library is the only remaining Carnegie library building in the Berkshires. Because of this, it is not only beautiful but also historically significant.

The present building is on the Peter Wilcox homestead. The Wilcox one-story, one-room log house was the location of Lee’s first town meeting held in December 1777.

The remaining original part of the building was constructed in 1907.

Photo circa 1911: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection (REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-D4-72599)

Photo circa 1911: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection (REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-D4-72599)

The total cost of the building, including the lot and furnishings, was $35,500. Andrew Carnegie donated $12,000, the town appropriated $18,300, and the remainder was donated by  citizens. Lee Marble Works quarried and cut the marble used in the construction of the building. The original section of the building is Corinthian in style, with interior woodwork of polished birch.

The library was expanded in 1977. Again, Lee Marble was used in the construction. The new wing tripled the size of the library to to 7,500 square feet. The addition includes the Betty Dennis Children’s Room, stacks, a reading room, and the Gallery.

What is a Carnegie Library?

Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated money to build a total of 2,509 libraries between 1883 and 1929, including some belonging to public and university library systems. 1,689 were built in the United States, 660 in Britain and Ireland, 125 in Canada, and others in Australia, New Zealand, Serbia, the Caribbean, Mauritius and Fiji.

Very few towns that requested a grant – and agreed to his terms  – were refused. The last grant was made in 1919 and there were 3,500 libraries in the United States; nearly half of them built with construction grants paid by Carnegie.

Lodging for your Berkshires Vacation

Whether you are visiting the Berkshires to take in modern American art at Tanglewood or Jacob’s Pillow, natural beauty or history, the Berkshires has something for everyone. We would love to be your hosts at our Bed and Breakfast in Lee, the gateway to the Berkshires.

Comments are closed.

»