The Claverack Free Library & Reading Room Association: Connecting Our Community Since 1829
The Claverack Library Society was formally organized on the site of nearby Oakledge, a home just south of the intersection of Routes 9H and 23B, in December 1829 with 24 members. For many years after, the library and reading room was located nearby in the north side of the Old Stone House, also known as the Studley House.
The Claverack Free Library and Reading Room Association was formally incorporated to serve the residents of Claverack by the New York State Board of Regents in January 1891. Three years later, the absolute charter was amended to designate the library’s service area to the town of Claverack, excluding the village of Philmont. By 1898 the library had a published catalog of 1,236 books to share.
Early in the 20th Century, the library purchased a 1.5-acre property at the intersection of State Routes 23B and 9H and converted an old store that had once served as a post office as the first dedicated public library building. While it met the library’s needs for nearly 30 years, the building began to show its age by the mid-1920’s.
In 1931 the state of New York exercised its right of eminent domain to make room to widen State Route 9H. Following several months of negotiations, the library association accepted an offer of $5,000 and the building was subsequently demolished. The library rented space in several houses nearby while the little wood frame structure with the Palladian window was built on the northwest corner of the intersection of State Routes 9H and 23B. Hudson architect Lucius Moore adapted the library’s design from models recommended by the New York State Education Department. When construction costs for the new library rose to $7,800, the association turned to alumni of Claverack College – which had closed 30 years earlier – to contribute to its new home. The building was completed in late 1932 and a wing was added to the western end of the library in 1951 to expand it to 1,450 square feet.
In January 1937, when the A.B. Shaw Fire Company needed a dedicated firehouse, land was purchased from Albert Crane Bristol on Route 9H just north of the library. The brick two-bay portion of the firehouse was built the following year with monies made available from the federal WPA and the town of Claverack. Three more truck bays were added in 1970, along with a banquet facility and kitchen on the lower level. The final bay to accommodate larger trucks was built on in 1991.
In the late 1990’s the library’s board of trustees determined that the little frame building at 629 State Route 23B was no longer adequate for the library’s expanded collection, local history materials, and programming needs. For the next nearly 20 years the board, volunteers and consultants explored options for expansion that ranged from building anew on fresh site to renovating an existing building in the hamlet. During the discovery process, an anonymous gift of $500,000 was given toward a new library, with the stipulation that the library not add onto its current building and that there be no speculation as to the donor.
A committee made up of library trustees and community leaders hosted public forums to gather input in 2006 and 2007 and a clear directive emerged; town residents wanted the library to remain in the heart of the hamlet close to the intersection of State Routes 9H and 23B. In 2006 the trustees chose library specialists Butler Rowland Mays Architects of Ballston Spa to help find a suitable location and draw up plans for a new library.
In 2007, when the A.B. Shaw Fire Company determined that it needed additional space to house larger firefighting apparatus, the library’s board of trustees and architects explored the possibility of purchasing the firehouse, with the intent either to replace it with a new building or repurpose it as the new Claverack Free Library and community center. After several appraisals and some negotiation, town voters approved the sale of the firehouse to the library in 2009. When the library purchased the building for $300,000 on November 22, 2010, this funding helped the fire company build a new firehouse one-quarter mile east on State Route 23.
A New Home, A New Chapter
After many years of fundraising and phased construction, the Claverack Free Library moved into its new home in the completely renovated and repurposed A.B. Shaw firehouse at 9 State Route 9H on October 26, 2019. Ultimately, the capital campaign raised $2.8 million from individuals, private foundations, local businesses, and New York State Library Construction grants, and the new library opened free of debt. The new library – fully accessible and modernized with an elevator and energy-efficient systems – now spans 11,000 square feet to house the library’s print and digital collection, a dedicated children’s room, teen space, local history room, and a large, multi-use community and cultural center for enhanced programming and gatherings.
The library’s board of trustees is exploring options for the future of the former library building at 629 State Route 23B, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.
- August 2020