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NEWINGTON - LUCY ROBBINS WELLES LIBRARY (*) W/HISTORY

HISTORY

The woman whose name distinguishes Newington's library was born Lucy Robbins in 1829. In 1853 she married Edwin Welles and moved into the Victorian house across the street from the present library. The Robbins family had given its name to Robbins Corner and Robbins Avenue. Edwin was the grandson of General Roger Wells and grew up in the house built by the General shortly after the Revolutionary War which stood on the site of the present library.

Fanny A. Welles and Mary Welles Eddy gave money and land to be put in trust for a library to be built in honor of their mother.

By the late 1930's when funds had accumulated to the extent that a library building could be planned, Newington had had a long history of libraries. The first of several religious and social libraries was established in 1894 with "matching funds" from the State Library; it was opened in 1895 in an upper room of the Town Hall. When the Town Hall moved to the Grange Hall on Main Street, the library moved with it, where it remained until 1939.

E. Welles Eddy, one of the trustees for the funds bequeathed by his aunts, worked with architect Roy D. Bassette of Smith and Bassette in the design of the Lucy Robbins Welles Library, built in 1939 at an approximate cost of $45,000. The entrance was a replica of the doorway from the old Churchill home which once stood on the site of Churchill Park. The original doorway is in the Wadsworth Atheneum. Paneling in the end rooms was copied from the "Newington Room" in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. At the time of opening, the library had 5,000 books.

By the late 1950's the library, serving a rapidly growing town and having outgrown its original building, was ready to build an addition. A 5,000 square foot addition, to house a children's room and book stack area at a cost of $110,000, was accomplished through funds left over from the 1939 building, a grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and individual contributions. The architect was Robert Lienhard of Malmfeldt Associates. It was dedicated in December 1960.

The U-shaped library served the town well for over 20 years. In the early 1980's the library was becoming cramped for space for books, programs and services. The library board, led by Dr. Phillip Kurlansky, began making preliminary plans and in the spring of 1984 a committee chaired by Roger Eddy, former library board president, began raising funds for the initial design phase. Again, with assistance from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, pre-referendum costs were raised. A Library Addition Building Committee, chaired by Anthony Ruglio, was formed in August 1984. Kaestle Boos Associates of New Britian was selected as architects and the design was presented to the public in the summer of 1985. In November 1985, voters favored the $3.2 million project by a 3 to 1 margin. Construction began in the Spring of 1986.

During construction, a business fund drive for furnishings and equipment and a "Love your Library" fund drive for books were undertaken by the Friends of the Library. Almost $200,000 was raised through these drives, and, once again, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving contributed generously.

Construction was completed in 18 months. During that time, the library operated from temporary quarters at the west wing of the Joseph P. Doyle Community Complex.

On February 22, 1988, the completed Lucy Robbins Welles Library opened for business, thanks to the support and hard work of thousands of people.

THE HISTORY IS USED WITH PERMISSION.
COPYRIGHT BY THE LUCY ROBBINS WELLES LIBRARY.

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Uploaded: May 12, 2005
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