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A Brief History of Oliver Wolcott Library

1862 Citizens joined to establish a private reading room called the Litchfield Library Association. The Library’s first home was the Seymour Building, a square red brick structure on South. The founders named the new facility the Wolcott Library Association in recognition of Oliver Wolcott’s grandson, Julius Huntington Wolcott, an early patron.

In 1870, another group formed the Litchfield Circulating Library Association in the same red brick building. The two associations amicably shared their collections; however, the general public was effectively excluded as payment of dues was required to join either library. The D.A.R. then became a driving force in a movement to establish a free public library in Litchfield.

1901 The two associations determined they should consolidate and offer more accessible library service. They began a search for an expanded facility. John Arent Vanderpoel offered to erect a new building at the corner of South and East Streets, which would house both the Library and the Litchfield Historical Society, so long as funds could be obtained for maintenance, and the Library would be “as free as the air to the people of Litchfield.” In July of 1901, the Noyes Memorial Building, named in honor of Mr. Vanderpoel’s grandmother, Julia Tallmadge Noyes, was completed and dedicated. At high noon on July 5, 1902, the new free Library officially opened as The Wolcott and Litchfield Circulating Library. By the following summer, the Library had issued 784 borrowers’ cards in a town whose population barely exceeded 1,000 people.

1966 Now the Library and Historical Society addressed the Library’s pressing need for expansion, and an unusual Yankee “swap” was made: on the shake of a hand, the Library received the Oliver Wolcott, Jr. House on South Street from the Historical Society in exchange for its share of the Noyes Building. The Library Board engaged Eliot Noyes and Associates of New Canaan to design a modern addition to the Wolcott House. Construction of the new wing began in spring of 1965, and by February of 1966, work was completed, and everything was ready for the moving of books and equipment down South Street. “Operation Big Switch” involved hundreds of volunteers, including the Lions Club, The Connecticut Junior Republic, the Girl Scouts, and friends of the Library. The newly named Oliver Wolcott Library opened for business on Wednesday, February 23, 1966. 

Read about the notable architecture of OWL here.