In 1858, a group of citizens established the Grafton Lyceum with $1,000 generated by $5 shares; the stockholders paid a small annual fee to use the books. The library was located in Mr. Stockwell’s tailor shop, in the same location as the present day 35 Grafton Common location! The books were mostly nonfiction titles. A small public library also existed briefly in Saundersville, pre-Civil War, in the office of physician Dr. George K. Nichols.
The Grafton Public Library was established in 1866 with a $1000 gift from Hon. Joseph Leland for purchase of books for a town Library. The Library combined titles from the Lyceum and from the Farmer’s Club at the Grange. The original lending library opened January 28, 1867, and books began circulating April 24, 1867. The Library was housed in a room at Warren Block, now known as the Grafton Townhouse at One Grafton Common.
Mr. James White was the first Librarian. The collection contained 5,311 books, circulated to 482 members. An average of 26 people visited each day. Only people age 21 or older were allowed to use the Library; children over age 14 could charge out books only if an adult signed to accept responsibility for the materials.
The collection soon exceeded its allotted space, and the Trustees requested an increase for the Library in their annual report for several years. The Library was relocated from the Clerk’s office to Lower Town Hall, where it remained for 43 years. Reference books were kept in the Selectman’s Room, there was a sunny reading room, and there was an adjacent meeting room.
The books were classified according to the Dewey Decimal System in 1888, but there was no card catalog until 1904.
By 1894, the library was open 2 days a week, and the Librarian, Miss Hattie Mann, was paid $150.00 annually.
The South Grafton branch opened in 1922 in the hall of Fisherville schoolhouse, and the North Grafton branch in 1924 in the North Grafton Schools.
In 1902, a generous bequest of 100,000.00 from Jerome Wheelock designated $90,000.00 for a Town Hall or Library. In return, Wheelock required a statue of “heroic size” be placed on the Common in return for this donation. The money did not mature until 1924; construction on the building began in 1927. We will celebrate Jerome’s 181st birthday on June 20, 2015.
The Colonial Georgian style building was designed by Boston architect Oscar Thayer, a well-known architect of the times. The style is identified by the simple box shape of the building, a paneled front door that is centered and topped with rectangular windows (the Library has an arched window over the door as well) and capped with an elaborate crown supported by decorative pilasters (columns that stick out but are not stand-alone). The cornice (a ledge) is embellished with decorative moldings, and the first floor has large multi-paned windows. The Library also has a portico – a covered porch – at its entrance. The Library was built for a population of about 6,000 residents, and is a little over 7,000 sq. feet.
The branches got their own buildings in 1935, when Charles Nelson donated his house and land, and in 1938, when the South Grafton library was erected in Fisherville.
In 1989, the meeting room in the lower level of the Library was turned into the Children’s Room.
A renovation completed in June 2013 made the building accessible, with a LULA, accessible entrance, and accessible restroom, plus brought the fire protection, safety and security systems up to code.
In 2014, the Library served 64,377 visitors and loaned over 156,000 items. There are 43,034 items in the collection as of May 2015, and over 9,400 residents have library cards.
* Source: Biscoe, Lucy. W. “Grafton Public Library.” D.A.R. papers, #19 (1960). With addendums by Barbara A. Braley (1972).