Henry D. Moore Parish House and Library • Steuben, ME



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For over 100 years, serving the area as a public library and community center!

Our Mission
The Henry D. Moore Parish House and Library seeks to further the artistic, cultural, educational, civic, and social enrichment of the local community by providing a public library, community center meeting spaces for groups and individuals to use, and an assortment of programming and events for the benefit of all.

Further, it is the mission of the Henry D. Moore Library to obtain, organize, preserve, and make readily available materials of contemporary interest, historical value, and permanent value, for the education, intellectual stimulation and pleasure of the entire community, in an atmosphere that is welcoming, respectful, and maintains the historic nature of the building and the library’s collection.

A Little Bit of History
In the Beginning …

The construction of the building was completed in July, 1911 and the dedication of the parish house and library occurred on August 25, 1911. It was a perfect day with over 1000 visitors from all over New England who came to honor Henry. The building was decorated in ferns and the speakers stand was draped in flags. Henry was accompanied by many members of his family and surrounding community, as well as the Governor of Maine. There were greetings of good will from several speakers from the towns of: Bar Harbor, Winter Harbor, Sullivan, Milbridge, Cherryfield and Machias. A supper was served at 5:00 PM in this hall. Music was provided by Monaghan’s Orchestra of Ellsworth and a dance was held in the evening at Whitten’s Hall.

The Building Layout

The original library building measured 65.5 feet by 41.5 feet. The basement housed a steam heating plant that could burn either coal or wood. It was no easy task to keep this building warm in the winter. Fire wood was readily available and was the fuel of choice up to 1947. It took 35-40 cords of wood each winter to keep this building warm. The wood was furnished by local lumbermen P. S. Dutton, S. E. Dutton, George Brooks, C. W. Buzzell and most likely several others. In 1947, the building was converted to fire oil delivered by the Smart Oil Company.

The original lighting fixtures were gas, and a bunker, which still exists in the rear of the building, was used to store the gas supply tanks. The gas was furnished by the Union Carbide Sales Company. The library was converted over to electric lighting during the summer of 1928. Many of the lighting fixtures in the building show their original gas construction details.

Before the renovation, much of the basement space was used for wood and water storage, a large heating plant and having been in the basement myself, some pretty incredible spiders! But there was an area set aside for a bowling alley and pool tables. Parish House rules forbid the girls from playing in the pool room area. I guess pool rooms have had a poor reputation from way back! The pool table must have gotten plenty of use because records indicate that the cushions on the pool table had to be replaced in 1937.

The first floor consisted of the meeting hall with a raised stage area, three classrooms and a kitchen. The second floor provided space for the library, the reading/game room and two parlors. There are also two fireplaces. All the original oak trim and wood floors remain from the original construction. Over the years, children and adults would use the game room on the second floor to socialize and have a good time. These areas were used right after school, evenings and on weekends. Some of the games played were: Parcheesi, Checkers, Tiddlywinks, Chinese Checkers and card games such as Flinch and Old Maid. Parish House rules forbid the children from playing with standard playing cards.

Library Operations

After the dedication ceremony, the library operations began with a strong organization consisting of the following departments: the Executive Committee, Grounds & Repairs, Housekeeping, Rules, and the Head Librarian, Miss Susan L. Moore. The library was open 7 days a week during the winter of 1911. Records indicate that 224 books were loaned in the first full month. By the time the building was dedicated, 92 library cards had been given out. The number of books loaned in December, 1911 was 159. Like many libraries, it appears that “overdue books” were a problem from the very beginning since there is a note in the ledger that $5.32 in fines had been collected by June 1912!

In the first years of operation, a lecture series at the library was begun by Henry’s cousin, Vida F. Moore. Examples of the lectures are: “A Trip Around the World” – Rev. H. D. French, a Steuben resident, and “Types of American Humor” – Prof. James S. Stevens, University of Maine. The lectures series continued for many years and was funded by the Vida Moore Lecture Fund Trust.

Now that convenient meeting rooms were available at the library, the Steuben Sidewalk Society began to meet in the second floor parlor room. This organization had a long history that began with the first society meeting at the home of Mary Springer Perry on February 2, 1888. The women met twice a month and would organize fund raisers for many community projects. Their first major project was a wooden sidewalk in the center of town.

Library Funding

From 1911 to 1922, funds for the operation of the library and parish house were received from Henry D. Moore. In 1922, Henry created a trust for the parish house for ongoing operations. The trustee was the Congregational Conference and Missionary Society of Maine. The trust funds were to be used for the benefit of the Congregational Church of Steuben (now the Union Church), the parish house and the parish house residence. A sentence taken from Henry’s will sums up his gift. It states “I Henry D. Moore of Haddonfield, NJ, intending in my will to bequeath and devise certain property, in trust, for the perpetual support and maintenance of certain benefactions which I have established in and for my native town in Steuben, Washington County, Maine.”

The real property consisting of land and buildings was conveyed to the trust in 1923. The trust was funded after Henry died in 1930. In addition to the initial funds placed in the trust, Henry sent $3000.00 per year from 1922 to 1930 to the trustee to manage the trust. Over the ensuing years, the estate of Henry D. Moore also continued to contribute to major repairs such as a new roof and painting.

When Henry’s will was finally executed in 1930, a sum of $70,000 was conveyed to the trust. In addition to these funds, there were funds from the Vida F. Moore Fund and from the Vida F. Moore Lecture Fund. In 1998, these assets were transferred from the Congregational Conference to the Maine Community Foundation, who was better suited to manage the account. The fund is presently referred to as the Henry D. Moore Parish House and Library Fund by the Maine Community Foundation and is no longer affiliated with the church.

A New Library Expansion


In 2001, it was determined that the original building no longer complied with fire, heating and electrical codes. If this building was to continue to be used by the public, it would need to be up dated mechanically and be made accessible for handicapped persons. The 27 ft. x 38 ft. addition was to consist of a new main entrance, a sealed stairwell, two large conference rooms, a new heating plant, new lighting fixtures, wiring and an elevator. In order to carry out the project, a local resident, Dick Healy, assembled a committee of volunteers from Steuben and began a fund raising campaign that consisted of local fund raising events, soliciting donations and writing grant applications. Funds would also be raised to replenish the endowment. The total project would require new funding of approximately $750,000. The design was developed by the architect Sam Woodward and the construction firm was E. L. Shea Inc. The new addition was dedicated in February, 2007.

Prominent Personnel

The residents of Steuben were fortunate to have the operations of the library in capable hands.
The following head librarians have directed the activities at the library:
  Susan L. Moore – July 1911 to 1938
  Ella S. Lewis – 1938 to 1955
  Marian H. Thurston – 1955 to 1974
  Mildred S. Piper – 1974 to 1993
  Pat Fletcher – 1993 to 1994
  Jeanne Benedict – 1994 to the Present

From the beginning, the library was kept clean and in good condition by the custodian, Mr. George L. Godfrey. He retired after 41 ½ years of dedicated service in 1955. A good wishes party was held in his honor three days later in this hall. He was replaced by an equally qualified custodian, Mr. Lee Holland. Mr. Holland’s carpentry skills would be put to good use at the parish house. His book cases in the children’s reading room and his Adirondack chairs are still in use.

Special Events

Over the years, there have been many special events held at the parish house.
The parish house was the site of the dedication ceremony for the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in 1975. The land was donated to the Federal Government by the William R. Mague family of Steuben.

In 1984, the Girl Scouts and Brownies in Steuben presented a play entitled “The Sidewalks of Steuben.” The play celebrated the founding of the Side Walk Society 96 years before and all of the contributions that were made by them. The play was written by Mary Ellen Thurston, then the president of the Sidewalk Society.

During the 1990s the following activities were taking place at the parish house:
  Church School Classes – every Sunday morning
  Youth Group Meetings – twice per month
  Women’s Fellowship Group – once per month
  Steuben Side Walk Society – twice per month
  Nursey School – September through June, twice per week
  Children’s Choir Practice – September through June, once a week


While the parish house and library was faithfully serving the community, there were some occasions that the library was closed:
• The many severe winter storms and rain/wind storms
• The diphtheria outbreak, December 17, 1912 to January 5, 1913. The library was closed again by the Board of Health on December 21, 1918 to December 28, 1918. During these times, the library committee gave out magazines to those who requested them.
• A wood fuel shortage closed the library on Mondays and Fridays beginning Oct., 1920
• There was water in the basement, March, 1934
• On town meeting days
• The memorial service on August 15, 1942 for Susan L. Moore
• VJ Day, August 15, 16, 1945
• There was no electricity on January 27, 1947 and many other days that are documented
• The memorial service for George L. Godfrey - Custodian, December 27, 1955
• The Librarian’s Conference in East Machias on June 14, 1956
• The memorial service for Ella Lewis, August 14, 1962
• The assassination of President Kennedy, November 23, 1963
• The memorial services for President Truman, January 4, 1973 and President Johnson on January 18, 1973

Conclusion

As we move into the twenty-first century, the Henry D. Moore Parish House and Library can be expected to continue to stimulate and enrich the community life in the town of Steuben. Henry’s vision will live on with the dedicated efforts of numerous residents and benefactors. We are sure his gift will experience a renewal that will satisfy the needs of many for the next 100 years.

References: Steuben Library Scrap Books, Library Ledgers and Henry D. Moore Trust Documents.

- Ed Hart

 

The Board of Directors
Maggi Kovacs (Chair and Secretary)
Sean Billings (Vice-Chair)
Keith Goldfarb (Treasurer)
Rob Gibson
Amy Hall
Donna Salisbury
Bill Thompson