About Willard Carpenter

Willard Carpenter developed the idea to build the library late in his life. He was in his late 70s, and a staunch abolitionist, which is why building a public library appealed to him.

He wanted the library to be for everybody, regardless of race, creed, gender, or age, but that was nearly unheard of in the 1880s. Women, for the most part, never used libraries. Immigrants were to be welcomed, as were non-whites. This library was to be open to everyone. Willard was interested in people improving themselves, and he wanted to help provide the tools to allow them to do so.

Willard was a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of a man; driven to succeed. He worked at the library jobsite every day, carrying brick and mortar up scaffolding alongside men less than half his age. He worked just as hard as anybody working on the project, but he was approaching 80 years old at the time.

He probably over did it; he suffered a massive stroke at the end of October 1883 and died during the next month. Sadly, he never saw the library completed.

Willard had set aside money for the library in his will and trust. The project cost $60,000, including funds for the initial collection of 10,000 books. The library first opened to the public in 1885.


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