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The evolution of Pittsford's libraries

The town of Pittsford's long awaited library is just about ready to be opened. Much planning has been formulated around the Gala Events taking place on September 16, 17 and 18th, 2005. Perhaps it would be interesting to chronicle the evolution of the public library in the town.

Very early in the life of the new community, known as Northfield, now known as Pittsford, settlers exhibited their Yankee quest for education and knowledge. The first school in all of Northfield was established in 1799 and the first library association was begun in 1803.

The Northfield Library Company was housed in the farm home of Ezra Patterson, who became the first librarian. That home was on Mendon Center Road very near what is now Mendon Center Elementary School. There was, until the construction on that school began, an Historic Marker commemorating that space.

Ezra Patterson was related to Simon and Israel Stone and he came to Northfield with the first group of settlers in 1790. He served as town supervisor for eight years. Prior to that office, he served as a Major during the War of 1812 under the leadership of Col Caleb Hopkins.

The library owned 77 books in 1805 and subscribers paid $1.00 per year to be members of the Association. Thee were very strict rules established by this company of people. "...any person that shall blot or Crees or Soil any book in any shape or turn down any leaf shall forfeit six cents, and taring of Every Leaf shall be left to the Discretion of the Directors and Every Leaf that shall be torn out shall forfeit Double the price of the Book". These were the regulations of the old Minute Book.

Some of the very exciting volumes were Morse's "American Geography", Hume's "History of England", Pope's Essay on Man", Swift's "Robinson and Crusoe" and self-help books such as "Mental Improvements" and "Self-Knowledge."

This library remained viable in the community until 1809, when it apparently discontinued operations. From 1809 to 1834, there is no record of library activities in Pittsford. In 1834, the Monroe County Clerk's Office recorded the incorporation of the Pittsford Social Library, but not much more was recorded. The next evidence of library activity is an account of "School District Number 6 Book", in December of 1852. A Mr. Thomas Gillam was listed as "Libraryan". Books were loaned to at least 120 patrons It is interesting to note that one of these borrowers was James M. Wiltsie, father of Charles Hastings Wiltsie, whose home later became the Pittsford Community Library.

That library was started in 1920 by Mrs. Joseph Malone and Miss Una Hutchinson. Its first quarters were in the grocery store of George Thomas. This enterprise was so successful that it soon was moved across the street over the S.G. Crump store. From the very beginning this venture enlisted wholehearted support from the residents and by 1924, the library had quite outgrown its quarters. In that year, the operation was moved to a small house on Monroe Ave, (currently known as The Little House) where it remained for 14 years. It was in that year that the Pittsford Community Library became chartered under the Regents of the State of New York, and began receiving state aid for the purchase of books.

The Library remained in the building donated to the community by Mrs. Emily Hastings Field at 19 North Main Street until it outgrew the space and removed to the former Star Market on State Street in 1973. That building was remodeled and extended until it was about to burst at the seams. In the year 2003 it was voted by Pittsford residents to build a new building in its current location . . .and this is the Event we are celebrating in September 2005!!!