Local History

The Montour Falls Library had its start in 1872 when the members of a Literary Society hosted a performance at Langley Hall (today’s village hall) to raise money for a library. Books were purchased and the library was formed. Members could have access to the library books for a fee of five cents per week. A group was formed to manage the library and it was called the Havana Library Association. The library had 630 books to start, but as it grew in size the library operated out of Langley Hall. Over time, support for the library fluctuated, and its location changed several times.

In 1892, the Village Improvement Society was formed and one of its missions was to formalize the library. More books were purchased and a location for the library was established in a building known as the Raymond Building at the corner of Main and Owego Streets. A provisional charter for the library was granted by the Regents of the State University, and a permanent charter was awarded in 1901.

In October 1896 the library changed its name to the “Montour Falls Free Library,” since the village had changed its name from Havana to Montour Falls in 1895. By May 1897 the library moved to the Stotenbur building at the corner of Lee and Main Streets, where it was open for one hour three times a week.

It was the good fortune of the library that Jesse Woodhull, a wealthy lumber merchant who had been born and raised in Montour Falls, took an interest in the library. Woodhull bought the former bank building on Main Street from the estate of Hull Fanton in 1900. Woodhull hired an architect to add a beautiful, rounded Tiffany glass window at the southeast corner of the building, and in 1904 graciously donated the building to the village to serve as the library. One room of the library was devoted to a museum holding a collection of artifacts and documents about the village’s history. With more room, the volume of books grew from 630 at its beginning to nearly 9,000 by 1960.

Across the years, the library has been a centerpiece of the village as it continues to serve the public interest with books, videos, children’s and adult programs, and many other services.”

Photos and content provided by Gary Emerson, Schuyler County Historian.

Visit Gary’s blog for other information on the local history of Schuyler County, NY!

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