Rowayton Library

The first attempt to establish a library in town was led by Rowayton summer resident and publisher George Palmer Putnam in 1867. The Lyceum 101thenLibrary Association opened in the basement of Alphonse Dibble’s meat and grocery store at 155 Rowayton Avenue. Mr. Putnam furnished the room[1], and with an executive Board that included many old Rowayton names like Pennoyer, Day, Thomes, Cudlipp, Dibble, Crockett, and Craw, books were purchased and a Librarian hired. Unfortunately, declining circulation and disappearing funds forced the Board to close the Library after less than a year of operation.[2] 

Thirty-five years later, in 1903, another determined group of Rowaytonites tried the Library concept again, and this time success was theirs. “The Association of the Free Library and Reading Room of Rowayton” [3] came into being in the former Craw Store, Craw Hall, at 101 Rowayton Avenue. The shelves of the old store acted as convenient places for the 29 volumes donated to the Library as its first gift—by Mrs. John Sherman Hoyt of Contentment Isle—along with others given by the Craws, the Hackleys and other families determined to make the Library a success. Under the Presidency of Mrs. Craw, the group incorporated in 1905. [4]

The 6th Taxing District gets involved

“In 1925, the momentous event of the year was the brand new [S]ixth [T]axing [D]istrict appropriating the Library $500 at their very first meeting.” [5] This was a large amount of money in the 1920’s, and the allocation left the Board free from the burden of raising money for the first time since the Library’s founding in 1903. The District has supported the Library annually since that first allocation in 1925, increasing the amount gradually to help keep up with inflation.

The Library’s second home: 145 Rowayton Avenueoriginal library

By 1926, it was clear that the Library collection had grown considerably, and more space was needed. The Library moved into the former home of the Rowayton Fire Department. Cosmetic improvements were needed to make the building comfortable for its patrons, including replacing the fire doors with a large window, installing modern lighting, and making the meeting room on the second floor, known as the Library Hall, available for public gatherings.

The Library’s third home: 33 Highland Avenue

By the 1960’s, history was repeating itself: the Library was overcrowded again. When the former Farrell estate on Highland Avenue came up for sale, the Library Board decided to ask the 6th Taxing District Commissioners for the asking price of $150,000 to purchase the former carriage house and stables. “Approval of the purchase of the building and land, located at the geographical center of the district, was overwhelmingly endorsed by the District electors at a well-attended special meeting on January 17, 1966.” The property was acquired for $142,500. Rowayton’s Harbor Wines provided the boxes for moving, and the contents of 145 Rowayton Avenue were transferred up to 33 Highland where the library still is today.



[1]  Mr. Putnam not only furnished the room for the library, he supplied it with books from his own home, from his family’s publishing business, and from surplus stock from friends in the book-trade. 

[2] Rowayton on the half shell by Frank Raymond; Phoenix Publishing; copyright 1990.

[3] In 1923, the Board voted for a new sign omitting the words “free” and “reading room.”’

[4] The Norwalk Hour, March 2, 1966.

[5] The Rowayton Library Association Quarterly Meeting Minutes, 1904.

[6] In 1923, the Board voted for a new sign omitting the words “free” and “reading room.”’

[7] The Norwalk Hour, March 2, 1966.

[8] The Rowayton Library Association Quarterly Meeting Minutes, 1904.