The history behind the Stone Ridge Library

Some of the staff members of the Stone Ridge Library (L-R): Crystal Middleton,Jude McGrath, director Jody Ford and Diane DeChillo. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Some of the staff members of the Stone Ridge Library (L-R): Crystal Middleton,Jude McGrath, director Jody Ford and Diane DeChillo. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Stone Ridge Library will be 106 years old this June, chartered as a free public library on June 17, 1909 by the Regents of the University of the State of New York. But its original library building dates back much further than that, to around 1798, so let’s start the story there.

The following account is based on information that, according to Jody Ford, director of the Stone Ridge Library, should be credited as a group effort, having been compiled over the years by staff, volunteers, board members and local historians.

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The buildings

The original building was built by John Lounsbery around 1798. The structure was later purchased by Cornelius Hasbrouck in 1859, who passed the house on to his brother, Garret Decker Hasbrouck, in 1861. Garret Hasbrouck lived in the home with his wife, Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck, and their daughter, Julia Hasbrouck Dwight, who eventually presented the building to the community in 1909 to be used as a library in memory of her parents.

Some of the woodwork, hardware and two original fireplaces date back to the time of the house’s construction. The unusual floor plan is highlighted by a large entrance hall with a two-section Dutch door and a banistered stairway rising to a turn at the halfway landing.

The main entrance today is through a wood and glass addition that joins the original building to the early 19th-century Wood-Elmendorf House, which the library bought in 1978. Dr. Isaac S. Hasbrouck is the earliest confirmed resident of that home. Old records show that a porch and Victorian dormer along with interior trim and woodwork were added to the house sometime after a court-ordered sale in 1868, when the property was described as being in poor shape. Fillmore and Mary Wood bought the house in 1890 and it remained in their family until the deaths of the two Wood daughters, Jennie Sutton and Grace Elmendorf.

 

The diaries

One of the interesting things behind the history of the Stone Ridge Library is its collection of diaries kept by Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck. As previously noted, she moved into the home in 1861 with her husband, Garret Decker Hasbrouck and her daughter, Julia Hasbrouck Dwight, who would later donate her childhood home for use as a library in 1909.

The elder Julia kept diaries: detailed accounts of nearly four decades of her life in Stone Ridge and at the family’s New York City residence. She chronicled her life as a 19th-century woman in entries dating from 1838 to 1873, giving us today a unique glimpse into the everyday life of an ordinary woman of the time living in our region.

The diaries fill 17 journals, which today, along with daguerreotypes, portraits, school composition books, piano forte music and two diaries kept by the younger Julia, form the Julia Lawrence Hasbrouck Collection at the Stone Ridge Library. Local historian Susan Stessin-Cohen maintains the library’s “Julia blog,” in which the 19th century diary entries written by the elder Julia are posted online on the same date in the 21st century, which gives the entries a fascinating “real-time” immediacy and allows us to draw parallels with our own lives. On February 1, 1843, Julia writes that she was surprised to wake up to snow, “all things in ‘bridal array,'” as she says, not having anticipated it, although she notes that her husband had foretold the storm two days prior. The weather finds her in a dull mood, however, as she writes, “I am doing up odds and ends this morning, and should feel very happy and contented, if it were not for ‘bygone days.’ Not that they were happier than my present hours; if I could blot them out, all would be well.” The Julia blog, entitled “From My Pen and Power,” may be accessed at www.frommypenandpower.wordpress.com.

 

General library history

When the Stone Ridge Library was chartered in 1909, it served a community of approximately 600. In 2000, the voters of the Town of Marbletown created the Stone Ridge Library District, with an elected board of nine members responsible for library operations, and today the library serves more than 7,000 patrons.

The library’s first director was Matilda (Cantine) Van Winkle, who served as a member of the governing Board of Trustees from the time of the library’s incorporation in 1909 until 1934. Library directors who followed were Susan Hasbrouck, 1934-1940; Fred Wicklow, 1940-1943; Anna Budenback, 1943-1950; Myrtle Strong, 1950-1951; Mary Davenport, 1951-1964; Marjorie Hasbrouck, 1964-1990; Lois Holly, 1990-1993, and the current director, Jody Ford, who took the helm in 1993.

Financing for the library in its early years came from gifts, contributions and volunteer fund raising, which still makes up an important part of the annual budget. The library received its first grant in 1938 (for $100) from the Town of Marbletown, and received support from the town and from Rochester and Ulster County in the years since. The special library district created in 2000 now provides the library with its core support.

The major fundraiser today is the annual Stone Ridge Library Fair each June, first held on the library grounds in 1948. Volunteers donate hundreds of hours to the event that draws attendance from all over Ulster County and beyond. Another major fundraiser is the “Author! Author!” dinner and auction held each December with a program written by local authors and writers.

 

Renovations

The Stone Ridge Library buildings have been going through a major renovation in recent years, with the front and south side of the original building now completed. According to library director Jody Ford, the major stabilization work that needs to be done is expected to be completed by early spring. “Now we’re beginning to take a look at the south building, moving into the second stage of our fundraising campaign in order to complete our renovation work,” she says. “The next main focus will be the children’s room and the children’s portion of the library.” They’re raising money on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, completing the project as they’re able to through fundraising. More information is available at www.stoneridgelibrary.org. ++

 

This is the final installment in a five-part series featuring the history of local libraries.