Anniversary party celebrates 100 years of stories at Cutchogue library

08/13/2015 4:30 PM |

NICOLE SMITH PHOTOCutchogue New Suffolk Free Library

Built in the mid-19th century, the church-like building on the corner of Main Road and Cases Lane in Cutchogue has housed the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library since 1915.

Now, to commemorate its centennial anniversary, the library will host a celebration filled with music, drinks and more on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m.

“It’s important to mark this occasion because this library is such a vital part of the community,” said library director Jennifer Fowler. “It is loved by everybody in Cutchogue and New Suffolk. It’s important to recognize how far the library has come and what direction it’s taking in the future.”

The building the library now occupies was erected in 1862 after the Independent Congregational Church and Society split from the Cutchogue Presbyterian Church to form their own group in 1862. Legend has it that stock shares and a string of gold beads were used to pay for the structure, according to library documents.

By 1913, members of the Independent Congregational Church had rejoined the Presbyterian congregation and the building was vacated. Church members decided to rent out the building as a library for a dollar a year; the Cutchogue New Suffolk Free Library opened two years later and was granted a provisional charter on Sept. 16, 1915.

Just 12 years later, in 1927, the Cutchogue Methodist Church burned down, prompting the Congregational Society to close the library so that the Methodists had a place to worship until construction on their new building was completed.

Once the library moved back into the space, Ms. Fowler said, officials used free-standing shelves and portable furniture so that the building could easily be converted back to a place of worship should the need arise again.

Because the library had been temporarily displaced, it was difficult to pinpoint the right time to celebrate its 100-year milestone, Ms. Fowler said.

“I went to some library experts and showed them all our documents, like our charters we got from the state, and they said ‘Go with the charter’ because that’s really our official recognition,” she said.

In the 1980s, with its $1 a year rent just a memory, the library purchased the building and began an ongoing modernization.

“I think the most important thing to recognize about this library is that we are really conscious about changing with the times and listening to what our patrons need, as well as keeping all of those traditional factors that really makes our library special,” Ms. Fowler said.

(Credit: Nicole Smith)

Director Jennifer Fowler said the library should be celebrated as a “vital” part of the community. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

In 2008, during the most recent renovation, the library was lifted and the basement was excavated and turned into a community room, doubling the size of the building. In keeping with tradition, the original ceiling’s wooden beams were preserved and are visible outside the library’s local history room.

It’s all this and more that the library is celebrating this week, when partygoers can enjoy local wine, food, acoustic singers, artists, raffles and a community poem to be created that night.

“Everybody was invited,” Ms. Fowler said, adding with a laugh that they “haven’t heard back from Obama yet.”

Ms. Fowler, who has been library director for 18 months, said talk of the centennial celebration began during her interview for the position.

“We started thinking about ideas right away when I started, and even though we’re doing this great celebration, we’ve been doing things throughout the year and will continue to,” she said.

Other activities held throughout the year include the construction of a 100-foot tube that children placed a marble in each time they completed a book, a time capsule that will be put together during the centennial celebration and a special postmark that will be available at the Cutchogue and New Suffolk post offices on Sept. 16.

“Every piece of mail that goes out of those offices on that day will have a centennial stamp from the library on it,” she said.

Ms. Fowler called working at the registered town landmark “a dream come true.”

Tickets to the library’s centennial celebration on Saturday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m. cost $100 each, with all proceeds going to the library. They can be purchased at the door, by calling the library at 734-6360 or by ordering them at cutchoguelibrary.org.

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