History of the Chesterfield Library, 1832-2010
The first record of library service in Chesterfield is found in the “Records of the Proprietors of the Philesian Society Library” in March 1832. This document began with the “Articles of Association” combining two libraries, the Chesterfield Social Library and the Library of the Philesian Society. The Association was in effect a corporation, the shares in which should not exceed $2.00.” There followed a page of signatures of 49 men, most of which are also to be found elsewhere on the leading documents of town history. Search of town records also reveal that in the 1880s and 1890s money for the “Literary Fund” was received from the NH State Treasurer. In 1893, the “Chesterfield Factory Association” 1donated 83 books to the formation of a public library.
In 1894 a free public library was established in the town of Chesterfield, with Frederick M. Hamilton, John F. Butler, and Timothy N. Robertson, as trustees. The library was split into the three sections, one to a village, and held in the homes of Mrs. Henry Rice (Center), Mrs. Ellen A. Safford (Spofford), and Mrs. James Ford (West). Mrs. Clara Farr became the West Chesterfield Librarian in 1896 and continued in that capacity for 34 years.
In 1894 there were 458 volumes in the Chesterfield libraries, and the population of the town was approximately 1,000. Today we have 30,000 volumes with a population of about 3.900.
In August of 1939, a new stone library building was opened in Center Chesterfield, funded by Morris Freidsam, and the U.S. Government as part of the WPA. At that time, the home libraries in West Chesterfield and Spofford continued to function, with books being circulated among the three branches.
In 1940 a children’s room was added to the main branch, giving a total space of 1120 square feet.
For many years the NH State Bookmobile circulated new books to all libraries on a rotating basis. The West Chesterfield librarian Avis Gauthier, remembers having ½ hour to pick out 100 books.
The branch libraries gradually closed with the centralization of the school and other services in town; all books were then housed in the Stone Central Library. Over time, the Stone Central Library became too small to house the ever-growing book collection and increased patronage. The idea emerged that a new library should be built to replace the old farmhouse that stood between the Town Hall and the church. This farmhouse was originally owned by the Spaulding family, but was then purchased by the town and burned in a controlled exercise for the fire department. (Today, the cornerstone of the original house is a marker in the children’s garden.)
A significant amount of funding was needed to build the new library so the “Friends of the Chesterfield Public Library” started baking pies to sell at the Corn Roast. Slowly but surely, monies began adding up and planning for a new library began in earnest. The town desired that new library should use the same stone as that used for the Post Office, Town Hall and Old Stone Library but unfortunately that quarry was depleted. The architect however was able to find similar stone in a quarry in New York. These stones were “sold” to townspeople for $8 each as a way to raise additional funding. All purchasers are on the framed picture hanging in the library.
Moving day was a blustery, snowy day. Volunteers had organized all the books into boxes in such a way that they could easily be placed in order onto the new shelves. There was a team of volunteers at the old library packing, a team bringing books over and a team receiving and putting books on shelves.
The objective of the library is to promote and foster the best in education, reading for pleasure and the general and moral betterment of Chesterfield through the use of books.