By Alexander Snow, Library Trustee
An overflow crowd gathered Saturday morning, August 16, to celebrate the dedication of the James A. Tuttle Library new addition and the 100th anniversary of the original library dedication.
The ceremonies began with Sharon Dowling, a former trustee, playing the Celtic harp. Lyman Gilmore served as master of ceremonies. Rebecca Paquette sang America the Beautiful and Loch Lomond accompanied by Ray Sweeney on the keyboard. Rev. Peggi Boyce provided the invocation and Margaret Warner, chairman of the library trustees, welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone who had a hand in making the addition a reality. Selectman Michael Genest spoke on behalf of the board of selectmen. Constance Kirwin, the longest serving trustee on the present library board, was cited for her service over the years.
State Representative, Gil Shattuck from Hillsborough, read a State Senate resolution introduced into the senate by Sen. Harold Janeway of Webster, citing the town's achievement in building the addition. Peter Moore read a commendation from Governor John Lynch which also cited Antrim for its library and the new addition. An American flag, which was flown over the U.S. Capitol was sent to the town by U.S. Senator John E. Sununu. Ron Haggett, former trustee, presented a brief history of the library, and Richard Winslow, also a former trustee, read excerpts from the poem read by W.R. Cochrane at the 1908 dedication. Ceremonies concluded with the ribbon cutting performed by Margaret Warner and Kathy Chisholm, library director. The ribbon for the ceremony was held by Marion-Anne Noble-Winchester and Colin
Following the dedication, refreshments were served and a slide show portraying the history of the library was shown. People were invited to look around the library and view the Historical Society's exhibits. Children were invited into the children's section for hat making, library card designing and face painting.
Not unlike the creation of the original library, the addition was mired in controversy and false starts. Various proposals for an addition to relieve serious overcrowding in the original building were considered by the library trustees over the years, but none were deemed suitable, primarily because of the cost. On January 31, 2005 the trustees and various town officials traveled to Sanbornton, NH, to view construction of that town's library addition. That was the beginning of the concept of an addition for the town's library that would alleviate overcrowding while being within financial reach of the town. In 2006 the project was approved at the annual town meeting. Later that year, construction began.
A little more than one hundred years before, there was similar controversy over creation of a library. The debate began in 1906. James A. Tuttle had bequeathed the bulk of his estate for the construction and maintenance of a free public library. However, Charles Jameson wrote, "The money should be used for books not a building." William Braisted countered, "The intent of Mr. Tuttle was to create a building of note to house the library." The public agreed with Braisted and in March, 1906, at a town meeting, voters accepted the bequest, appointed a committee to select a site and hire an architect to design the library.
Later that year, a $12,000 budget was established to build the library. Unfortunately, in May, 1907, the town learned that the estimated cost of the library would be $16,000. A special town meeting decided that the construction costs should be held at $13,000. The cost reduction would be achieved by eliminating expensive interior and exterior detailing.
The library was dedicated on August 19, 1908. An estimated 900 people attended the celebration. The building's completion was not without a humorous side. According to the Antrim Reporter (the local newspaper), in late May, 1908, the building committee, its work completed, turned over the keys for the library to the selectmen. The selectmen, in turn, notified the library trustees that they were ready to pass the keys to them. However, when the selectmen and trustees met, the selectmen refused to give the trustees the keys because construction had gone $70 over budget. Ultimately the matter was resolved and the library was opened in July, 1908.
One of the hallmarks of the James A. Tuttle Library is the generosity of Antrim residents and others from surrounding towns. Consider that the original building was made possible through the bequest of James A. Tuttle. The land was donated by former New Hampshire Governor, and Antrim resident, D.H. Goodell. The Wyman Kneeland Flint library of 2,000 volumes also was given to the library. (Estimated value of the building and books when the library opened was $20,000.) In more recent history the land for the addition was donated to the town by James and Carol Rymes. Hundreds of other area residents and businesses made large and small donations which have enhanced the attractiveness and usefulness of the new addition and refurbishment of the original section. Plaques for some of the more substantial donations have been
placed in the corridor connecting the original library and the new addition.
Although the dedication is over, work continues. There is wiring to be completed in the old part of the library. The walkway in front of the library has to be finished and landscaping will open up some of the shrubbery and trees in front of the library.
If the original founders of the library could see what their legacy looks like today they would be amazed. Not only has the physical building expanded but there are DVDs, CDs, computers, and audio books, to name a few of the innovative technologies that make today's library so rich and diverse. If it weren't for the foresight of the men and women more than 100 years ago Antrim would indeed be poorer.
Members of the Dedication and Celebration Committee, who made the ceremonies possible, are Kathy Chisholm, Lyman Gilmore, Ron Haggett, Kara Penny, Sandy Snow, Missy Taylor, Margaret Warner and Dick Winslow.