The Franklin County Library, Saranac Lake's first library building, 1880. Robert Louis Stevenson borrowed books from this library in the winter of 1887-88. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, September 29, 2007 Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 2, 1962

S.L.'s First Free Library Had a Total Cost of $700

The history of the Saranac Lake library includes a cycle or expansion, followed eventually by overcrowding, which is in turn, after the lapse of many years, relieved by new expansion. The 38 years since the last such action, however, add up to the longest lapse in the library's history.

According to an article in The Enterprise in 1922 by Ernest H. Baldwin, president of the library early in the century, the first free library in Saranac Lake was started by an eccentric gentleman named Hillel Baker during the American Civil War. His library, however, was more of a private philanthropy than a public institution. It wasn't until 20 years later that a free library of a really public character was established in the village.

This was the Franklin County Library which was founded around 1878 by Dr. and Mrs. E. L. Trudeau as the outgrowth of a magazine club they had organized shortly after their first arrival in the village. The library's first home of its own was a plain wooden one-room building erected on a site on the north side of Main Street. Purchased for the munificent sum of $25, the plot contained one twentieth of an acre of land, The total cost of Saranac Lake's first library was $700.

The Franklin County Library continued under that name for ten years. It was open one or two afternoons a week, and featured reading room which, Mr. Baldwin us, "was very popular among the young people." Robert Louis Stevenson spent a winter in Saranac Lake during this period, and borrowed several books from the library.

When Dr. Trudeau became too busy with his Sanatorium to care for the library, he deeded the latter to St. Luke's Episcopal Church, because nearly everyone interested in the library at the time was connected with that church. A new building to serve as both library and parish house was erected, while the old library building was sold at auction tor $1600. This structure is still standing; formerly the Gibney market, it is now the Post Office Pharmacy. The reopened library was renamed the "Adirondack Library."

Two major advances marked the 15 years under St. Luke's aegis. One was the series of generous lifts by George C. Cooper of New York. The other, oddly enough, was a fire which seriously damaged the interior of the parish house. Fortunately, the books were insured, and the sum received made it possible to add many new books to the collection— no doubt it was then that the library acquired most of the classic multivolume biographies which now add so much to the value of the present basement stacks

After a temporary suspension in 1906, due to lack of adequate financial support, the Saranac Lake Free Library Association was formed under the leadership of George V. W. Duryee. This enthusiastic group conducted a highly successful fund raising campaign, and within three years the first section of the library's present home was built. At a total cost of $8500. At this time the library's collection totaled 3000 volumes.

In the next 15 years the library's collection more than tripled in size, and circulation shot up at an even faster rate. Once more the library was hard-pressed for space. In 1924 Charles H. Ludington, a magazine publishing executive, came to the rescue by providing the funds for an addition on the back of the library. The street level section of the addition now houses, among other volumes, the library's unique collection of Adirondackana. In the basement are a room for meetings, and a stack room which is fairly bulging with books, magazines, and valuable Adirondack documents.

See also