March is National Reading Month!
By Barbara LaMonica
Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Library
The Huntington Public Library began as one of the oldest libraries in Suffolk County. The original library’s ledger book contains a copy of a covenant dated June 29, 1759 establishing a subscription, or private, library funded through membership. Rev. Ebenezer Prime, one of the original signers of the covenant, was appointed Library Keeper in charge of membership and the purchasing of books. The library opened with 39 subscribers and a collection of 71 titles, mainly comprising works on divinity and history as stipulated by the covenant. Notably missing were any works of fiction or poetry.
The initial subscribers represented some of the prominent and wealthier families in the community including the Platts, Rogers, Scudders, Brushes, Woods, and Ketchams. Evidence that the library was unusual for its time is the acceptance of women as initial subscribers with “equal right with his or her co-subscribers to improve and make use of the library”. The library was the only institution at that time in the town that gave full rights to women.
The library survived until 1782 when under the British occupation Rev. Prime’s home was commandeered as British headquarters, and presumably, the library was destroyed during this time.
By 1801, a new group was formed to revive the library. Rev. William Schenck was elected chairman, presiding over ministers and prominent families in keeping with the general religious character of the library to date. The new library, situated on the town green had 23 members. Historical documentation is sketchy but it seems this library also dissolved. In 1817 a larger library with 57 subscribers, (many of them heirs to the original members), was formed and housed in the librarian’s home.
Station Branch opened in 1929 at 1351 New York Avenue
This blog has been written by various affiliates of the Huntington Historical Society.