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Guilford, Maine

Where history meets the future


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Guilford Memorial Library

Text by Andrew Cartwright and Andrew White
Images from the Guilford Historical Society

Did you know Guilford was almost called Fluvanna? That's just one of the interesting facts we learned researching the beginning of the Guilford Memorial Library. Guilford was a big town in the early 1900s. At the turn of the century Guilford had the railroad, woolen mills, a newspaper, and even a cinema. What the town needed was a library.

In 1903, The Library Reading Club proposed the town support a library for public use. That year space was set aside in the Selectman's office for the Guilford Free Library. It didn't take long before the space was too small. At the 1907 Annual Meeting the trustees proposed a library be built in Guilford. The secretary for the board was to write Mr. Andrew Carnegie a letter asking for a grant to build the new library in Guilford. The town voted to support the library with $500 per year if Mr. Carnegie gave $5000. Mr. Daniel Straw donated the land and another $5000.00 was raised by local citizens. Mr. Carnegie did give the $5000 and the library was built.

The architect who designed the building was Fredrick A. Patterson from Bangor. He used the Carnegie Classic Revival style for the building. There are many Carnegie Libraries throughout the United States. If you look above the front door that faces Water Street, you will see Carnegie written. Andrew Carnegie libraries don't all look the same, but many have the same kind of windows that the Guilford Memorial Library's original building has. The building was built with bricks and had a slate roof. Slate was used a lot because of the slate quarry in Monson. In the early 1900s indoor plumbing and electricity where used in new construction. When the construction was finished, the building had gone $750 over budget. Andrew Carnegie agreed to pay the $750 if the Town of Guilford agreed to pay 10% of the $750 annually to help support the library. At the 1909 Town Meeting it was voted to give the 10% and Mr. Carnegie gave the money. From 1910 to at least 1919, Guilford gave the library $575 each year for expenses.

On January 26, 1909, the library officially opened to the public. It was on this day the library's name officially changed from the Guilford Free Public Library to the Guilford Memorial Library. There were seven trustees and each year they gave a report at the annual town meeting. The first librarian was Ernestine Hale. She and an assistant ran the library three days a week. It was impressive that the average number of books out per day open was 125 most years we looked at. I think this was true because people didn't have computers or televisions at home to entertain them. They read books and magazines instead. The library raised money by having entertainment, by donations from people, and through late fees for book returns. They increased the number of magazines and books on hand all the time. It was a very busy place with lots of students from school using the reference books and people coming in to read the magazines. We couldn't find a lot of information about from the time the library was built to when it had its first renovation in 1977.

In 1977, the library needed some renovations. It needed painting, new gutters, roof repairs, basement windows and other miscellaneous repairs. The main entrance was moved from the front to the back with a parking lot. It still looked much like it did when it was first built in 1908. In 1986, the Guilford Memorial Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1992, Linda Packard became the new librarian; that's when things really started happening again for the library. Again, at the turn of the century, the Guilford Memorial Library would have new life. In 1998, Linda began a campaign to raise funds to build an addition to the library. Several children from the community, under the direction of art teacher Mary Lightbody, drew and water-colored images of the old building. Notecards were made from the originals and given to people who gave a certain amount to the campaign. I know this because my oldest sister, Grace, painted a picture of the front door! You can see the originals in scrapbooks at the library. Other people who gave money got their names on plaques that are on display in the library as you walk in. The community raised the funds needed; grants were written; matching funds were given, and the library addition was becoming a reality. The trustees needed to work closely with the architect because the original building was on the National Register. The finished project is a nice mix of old and new. The old building has a slate roof; the new building has a metal roof. The wall on the west side of the original building was left intact, including the window openings. The interior goes from the old to the new without a feeling of moving into an addition.

Linda Packard was named Librarian of the Year in 2005 by the Maine Library Conference. Linda has made a huge difference in the Guilford Memorial Library since her arrival. In 1996, computers where made available to the public. Then, in 2002, laptops where given to both the Guilford Library and the Sangerville Library through a grant written by Crystal Priest. As well as getting 10 laptops to be divided by the two libraries, wireless internet was installed. Since 2003 the library's circulation has doubled and people are using the wireless internet.

In 2009 the Guilford Memorial Library received a 3-Star rating by the Library Journal, one of only 4 libraries in Maine to receive this honor. Again, in 2010 the Guilford Memorial Library received national recognition by receiving a 4-Star rating. The ranking is based on per-capita circulation, program attendance, and internet usage based on the library's yearly expenditures. (Piscataquis Observer, 1/20/10)

So, next time you need to do your homework, find a good book to read, or use the internet, go to the library. It's at 4 Library Street in Guilford. It's open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Wednesday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday from 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Chase-Em-In Tea Room

Chase-Em-In Tea Room, Guilford, ca. 1920
Chase-Em-In Tea Room, Guilford, ca. 1920
Guilford Historical Society

Text by Jamie Libby and Chase Bouton
Images from the Guilford Historical Society

On Route 15 across from the woolen mill there used to be a little store. The name of this store was the Chase-Em-In Tea Room. Little is known about the Tea Room. We do know that it sold gas and breakfast. Inside there were three tables with two seats each. After the Tea Room was sold, it was renamed the Hill Top Restaurant, which stayed open for a few years before finally closing. Little is known on both businesses, but they both provided for the community.

Masonic Hall

Text by Ethyn Gould, Casey Northup, and Danielle Spaulding
Images from the Guilford Historical Society

The old Masonic Hall in Guilford was once located in Abbot, Maine. The building was known as Morse’s Hall. In 1888 the Masons voted to move to Guilford. They moved into the building that was also used by the Odd Fellows. It also was French and Elliot’s grocery and the post office. The store was located downstairs along with the post office. The Odd Fellows and Masons met upstairs. The top floor was used as dining room.

On December 6, 1902 the building was lost to a fire. The whole building was ruined.

A new Odd Fellows Hall (I.O.O.F.) was built in 1904. Again the Masons shared this building with them. This new building was located at the corner of Hudson Avenue and South Main Street.

This building soon had extensive fire damage in 1979. The building was made of brick which could have been the reason it didn’t burn completely.

In 1998, the I.O.O.F. building was torn down so they could build a Rite Aid. We do know one witness (Jeff Libby) who watched the building being torn down. One year later land was donated by Donald Davis for a new building. A dedication was held in 1999.

The Guilford Masonic Hall was remembered as a meeting place for the townspeople. It was a very important part of Guilford society.