Having returned to Connecticut last night, today I have set myself up at our town library to get some work done on this old blog here...I am sure the title caught your attention (and she totally is, by the way, though she would refer to herself as 'library director') but this little house of books actually has quite an incredible story behind it.
The building, built in 1925, was made possible by William Dixon Burnham using granite from a nearby mine. (You can visit Burnham's teeny-tiny childhood home right next to the library...on Memorial Day after the parade in town, they open up the house and sell penny sweets inside...super precious.) By the early 1960s, the library was becoming quite cramped but did not have access to funding to help expand.With the death of town resident Van Wyck Brooks, a biographer and critic, a memorial fund was set up to raise money for a library wing in his name. The effort, however, flopped, despite support from celebrities including Pearl Buck. Just enough money was raised for a bust of the author and a display of some of his memorabilia. His desk, books, and other items can be found on display in the library's biography section.
Then, in l973, there came a long-distance telephone call to the library that changed everything. It turned out that the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Fund was the recipient of a bequest. Details were slow to emerge and even as they did, the news they brought was as puzzling as it was gratifying. The testator, Charles E. Piggott, was a hermit and a miser who had lived in a slum in Los Angeles who had recently passed away. He was a misanthrope and he was considered by those who knew him to be a pauper. He had no connection to Bridgewater. He had never even been east of the Rocky Mountains. Yet he was leaving the Fund some $300,000. A mystery as to how he even heard about the town of Bridgewater or it's little library is believed to have been a voracious reader on any number of subjects and loved public libraries. One book that he had come across was Van Wyck Brooks’ The Flowering of New England, which describes the hermit, Henry David Thoreau. Piggott may have compared himself to Thoreau, or saw wisdom in some of Thoreau's ideas as presented by Brooks, and after hearing about the memorial fund in Van Wyck Brooks' name and decided it was the worthy recipient of his money.
By 1980, the Van Wyck Brooks Memorial Wing was dedicated, doubling the size of the library. Happiness.