The Darwin Exception

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The Buildings of Malone: The Wead Library

Posted by thedarwinexception on March 15, 2007

In 1881, Mary Kasson Wead, the widow of Samuel Clark Wead, who was the first president of the Village School District Board of education, decided to honor her late husband and his son, Col. Frederick Fuller Wead. The Colonel had died in the Civil War Battled at Old Cold Harbor.

Mrs. Wead honored them with the Christmas gift to the Malone Village School District, announcing the gift on Christmas Eve 1881 and making the actual gift in February the following year. The gift consisted of the building presently housing the Malone Village offices at 12 Elm Street to be used as the local library.  Together with its contents, the gift was valued at $75,000, a tidy sum in that time. She gave the gift to the school district, since she felt that education and the school district would be apt to have a certain permanence and presence in the village. Mrs. Wead acted as librarian for several years and was eventually succeeded by George Whipple, a clerk of the Village School district, according to local history.

In the early 20th century, Louisa A. Merritt succeeded Mr. Whipple. She was the first librarian to have a professional library degree, obtained from Columbia University. In 1928, the Board of Education felt that the quarters at 12 Elm Street. had become obsolete and inadequate. In the early 1930’s the Putnam home at 64 Elm Street was purchased, with intentions to construct a new library on that site. The location was felt to be particularly apt, because the property had been part of the original Wead homestead. Frederick Wead, an architect from Boston and a cousin of the original Wead family, designed and directed the construction of the new library. The building was completed in 1932. Its construction costs were $75,000. It was faced with Crippen stone from the nearby town of Burke. An open house was held in 1933, after the books and other library materials were ferried by volunteers from 12 to 64 Elm Street. (Directly across the street from the home of Malone’s William Almon Wheeler, who was Vice Presdient of the United States.) State support for public libraries continued minimally through the 1950’s, but the library served as a conduit to the New York State Library and a source of new books and periodicals purchased through local funds. Miss Merritt retired in 1957, when David Minnich was hired as Librarian/Library Director.

Following the formation of the Malone Central School District, by 1968 it became increasingly apparent that the NY State Bureau of audit and control did not know where to “put” the Wead Library, since it was being operated as though it were a department of the District, as a music or fine arts department. In 1970, the Wead Library was established as the Malone Central School District Public Library. A five member board of trustees was elected and a separate budget for the library made the State happy. It also enabled the library to progress, and handle its own funding, programs and affairs.

In 1980 the library received a “Local Public Works” grant from the federal government, and $178,000 was used to expand the present building, so that the principal book collection could be on one level. Additionally, a rest room was added to the service floor of the library, and a ramp made the library collection accessible to all.

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