History of the Library
In 1891, Captain Elihu Spicer announced that he planned to build a public library for the communities of Mystic and Noank on the corner of West Main and Elm Streets. The building would be two stories with a collection of books on the second floor, and a large public meeting room on the first floor.
The Captain was born in Noank in 1825 and went to sea at the age of nine. He became a cabin boy at age fourteen and was master of the bark Fanny at age twenty-two. During subsequent years, he mastered many sailing ships for trade around the world.
In 1861, he entered into partnership with a life-long friend, Charles H. Mallory, to form the C.H. Mallory & Co. in New York. Their venture proved successful in the trade between New York, Florida, and Galveston, Texas and this success enabled Captain Spicer to engage in his philanthropic activities.
He chose to build his library across from his summer home on Elm Street and to include features that would reflect his inquiring interest in the many places and things that he had seen on his voyages. Unfortunately, Captain Spicer died on February 15, 1893, just months before the completion of the building. His sister, Mrs. Sarah Dickinson, with the aid of Mr. Mallory, carried out the Captain's wishes.
William B. Bigelow of New York drew up the plans and Mertz's Sons of Port Chester was the contractor. Captain Spicer's own architect, William Higginson, supervised the construction. Ground was broken in the summer of 1892. Building materials include Roman brick, granite from Leete's Island, Connecticut, sandstone from Longmeadow, Massachusetts and Numidian marble from Africa, as well as marble from Vermont and Tennessee. Some floors are tile mosaics from Italy and stained glass fills the window transoms. Sculptured tondi representing Minerva for literature and Apollo for the arts appear on the front facade. The original roof was Roman tile.
The interior glows with polished and intricately carved oak. A handsome brick fireplace on the east wall of the second floor features a large oak panel with the inscription "Elihu Spicer gave this library to the people. Large was his bounty and his soul sincere." A blackwrought iron wreath accents the fireplace wall and this wreath motif is repeated in the carvings on the original bookcases.
The building was dedicated on January 23, 1894 with ceremonies held in the new Meeting Room. Over 400 people attended to hear local ministers praise the building and its magnificent location, and proclaim the value of good books in the process of learning. Patron usage at the Mystic & Noank Library increased year by year. The many services and friendly staff created a welcoming atmosphere.
In 1951, the Board of Trustees voted to move the books to the first floor and close off the second floor. However, by 1961 the first floor was overcrowdwd and they voted to move the children's collection upstairs. The Board hired architect John Dodge of Stonington to handle the design and oversee the remodeling. His plan called for a dropped ceiling and a dividing wall to create both a Children's Room and a Meeting Room on the second floor.
By the 1980s, major repairs were necessary and overcrowding was very evident. To celebrate the upcoming Centennial year, the Trustees made another major decision and proposed an addition, which would triple the existing space, and a major restoration of the original building. A fundraising campaign, launched in 1987, received overwhelming community support. In December 1991, the 6,000 square foot addition was dedicated and in May 1992 the restoration was completed. The architect Charles King, very successfully combined the old and the new.
An extensive renovation was undertaken in 2011. Carpeting in the second floor reading room was removed and the original oak floors were refinished. New shelving for periodicals was added and new energy efficient windows were installed. An area for teens was created on the first floor.
The Library is proud of its growth and development. It is a special place for the communities of Mystic and Noank and the neighboring areas, just as Captain Spicer had envisioned. He entrusted a grand gift to the care of the people and his trust has been accepted and fulfilled.
Local History Collection
Our local history section is located in our second floor Spicer Reading Room and is accessible for patron browsing and circulation.
The circulating local history collection is shelved in the original wood and glass cabinets and are unlocked for easy access. The local history reference books are locked and are available for viewing upon request.
Stop by, browse, and discover an interesting title related to local and Connecticut history.