"Carnegie Library, Burlington VT." Published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, Portland ME, No. 20006. Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Vermont.
Flecther Free Library, Burlington VT. Taken by Samantha Ford on November 11, 2012.
The Fletcher Free Library, located at 235 College Street, was built in 1904 on the corner of College Street and South Winooski Avenue in Burlington, Vermont. The Fletcher Free Library has the distinction of being the first Andrew Carnegie Library built in Vermont.(1) Between 1881 and 1917, Carnegie spent $41,748,689.00 on funding public libraries. In A Short History of Vermont's Carnegie Libraries, Carnegie is quoted as saying, "Building a Library outranks any other one thing that a community can do to benefit its people. It is the never failing spring in the desert."(2)
Donations from Mary L. Fletcher and her daughter, Mary M. Fletcher made the construction of a new library possible. Both women paid $20,000.00 each for books and an endowment in 1873, which would be later used for a new building.(3) In 1901, Andrew Carnegie donated an additional $50,000.00 to fund the construction of the Fletcher Free Library. The old library was outgrowing its space in City Hall and needed a new location. It moved briefly to the Y.M.C.A building on the corner of Church and College Streets during the construction process on the Fletcher building.(4) When the library moved to the Y.M.C.A. building there were 9,000 volumes in the collection. By 1900 this had increased to 30,000.(5) The pressing need for space was becoming a problem.
The exterior of the main block of the Fletcher Free Library has changed very little in the 108 years since it was built. There were extensive renovations and repair work done to the foundation in the 1970s, however as the building was sinking. Discussions about tearing it down to build a new library concerned a group of citizens who were able to elevate its status to a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.(6) This act saved the original building, and allowed for funds to be raised for the necessary repairs. In 1981 a $2.4 million dollar glass-and-concrete addition was approved by vote and was connected to the eastern elevation of the original building. (7) The added space allowed the collection to grow in order to meet the increasing needs of the community.
While the main block of the library has remained virtually unchanged since 1904, the surrounding areas have. The streets were widened and paved, with modern crosswalks and traffic lights added. The building across the street from the library is now the Roxy movie theater, which the Burlington Assessor's office claims was built in 1981.
The glass 1981 addition to the library is also visible to the left of the original library in the new photo; this included a new front entrance for the building.
The postcard was postmarked in 1907, so the library would have been brand new at the time of the photo. The postcard was printed in Germany for the Hugh C. Leighton Company and is numbered No. 20006.
1. Robert Resnik and Fletcher Free Library Reference Librarian, A Short History of Vermont's Carnegie Libraries (July 2004).
4. Charles E. Allen, About Burlington Vermont (Burlington, VT: Hobart J. Shanley & Company, 1905), 77-79.
6. Robert Resnik and Fletcher Free Library Reference Librarian, A Short History of Vermont's Carnegie Libraries (July 2004).