Note: Much of the information in this article was obtained from Rachel Hartley's The History of Hamden Connecticut: 1786-1936 (1943; 1959), as well as from annual reports of the Town of Hamden for the years 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1951, and 1953. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are from the Hamden Historical Society archves.
Whitney Avenue & Ives Street c.1915 - James Ives Building at left and the "long building" on the southeast corner at right. - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Mount Carmel Free Public Library was established in 1900, by Mrs. William Brewster and other members of the newly formed Library Association. The Association kept its first collection of thirty-seven books for a time in a back room of the "long building" pictured above on the southeast corner of Whitney Avenue and Ives Street.
In 1907, the library moved to new quarters on the second floor of the James Ives Building right across Ives Street, but high rent inspired the Association to seek the help of George Morton of the New Haven Water Company, which owned the old Schoolhouse No. 4, located a block north and on the opposite side of Whitney Avenue.
Mt. Carmel Library (1908-21), formerly District Schoolhouse No. 4 - CLICK TO ENLARGE
Mt. Carmel Branch (1921-1983) - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The library remained in the 1865 former schoolhouse (above, left) until 1921, when to moved again, this time to the former four-room schoolhouse at the corner of Whitney and Woodruff. Built in 1908 to replace the 1865 schoolhouse, the newer District No. 4 Schoolhouse closed in 1921 when the new Mt. Carmel School opened on Woodruff Street.
The Mt. Carmel Library closed in 1983 when the building was sold and converted into a bank. Quinnipiac University bought the building in 2011 to house the university's Irish Hunger Museum.
The Hamden Library
Grace Episcopal Church Parish House (Quimby Photo) - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Hamden Library in Centerville got started in the late-nineteenth century when Rev. James Coley of Grace Episcopal Church organized a circulating library in the church rectory and later in the church parish house. Town historian Rachel Hartley wrote that when it was officially opened to the public in September 1901, the library attracted twenty-seven subscribers for the first year.
The library eventually moved from the Grace church parish house to Mr. Knox's shoe repair shop, which was located opposite the Web Shop (where the Parkway crosses Whitney Avenue today). From there it moved again to the second floor of Wilbur's Hardware Store (later Kimler's), in the building at 2349 Whitney Avenue once called Temperance Hall.
2324 Whitney Avenue c.1945 - CLICK TO ENLARGE
2324 Whitney in July 2019 - CLICK TO ENLARGE
By the mid-1930's, the Hamden Library finally settled into the former residence of Dr. Walter Lay at 2324 Whitney Avenue. It closed in 1952 with the opening of the original Miller Memorial Library on Dixwell Avenue. Looking very much the same as it did 80 years ago, it is the only pre-WWII woodframe building still standing on the west side of Whitney between Dixwell Avenue and the Parkway.
Beginning in 1916, the building served as Hamden's first telephone exchange for the Southern New England Telephone Company. Previously, all Hamden telephones were on New Haven exchanges.
Notice that the skinny sapling on the left-hand side in the earlier photo has blossomed into the majestic giant pictured in the contemporary photo.
The State Street and Community Branches
Old St. Stephen's Church - CLICK TO ENLARGE
Brundage-Community Branch - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Hamden Board of Library Directors was appointed in May 1943, at which time Hamden's three independent libraries turned their facilities over to the town.
From the early 1940s until June 1953, a State Street branch of the library was located in the basement of the old St. Stephen's Church that was located nearly opposite the start of Ridge Road. The branch was moved later to a spare room in the new addition to State Street School.
The Community Library was organized for the Hamden Plains-Highwood area and was originally located at 1270 Dixwell Avenue, where the McDonald's opposite the Acme Mall is today.
The Community Branch (above, right), at the corner of Scott Street and Circular Avenue, was built in 1950. Now called the Brundage-Community Branch, the building was erected on property that was acquired from the Humphrey Hook & Ladder Association when that volunteer fire company donated their fire station and adjacent property to the Town of Hamden in December 1949.
The Whitneyville Branch
Old Putnam Avenue fire station (1928-70) - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The Whitneyville Branch at Carleton and Putnam opened in 1952- CLICK TO ENLARGE
The 1946 Town Report announced the that a new branch library for Whitneyville had been first located at Putnam Avenue School, but when that location was "outgrown," the branch was moved to the second floor of the Putnam Avenue fire station. The new branch was open five days a week for a total of thirteen hours. Efforts to build a permanent Whitneyville branch were announced in the report. "The town has acquired a branch building site on the corner of Putnam Avenue and Carleton Street."
The efforts to build the new Whitneyville Branch (above right) were fulfilled when it was opened in May 1952.
Miller Memorial Library
When Mary Miller, the widow of Willis E. Miller (1841-1904), died in 1924, she left an incredible $100,000 gift to the town. The funds, subject to life use by the Millers' daughter, Gertrude, were to be used to build a public library in memory of Mary's late husband and, if necessary, to acquire a building site somewhere near the center of Hamden.
In 1951, the cornerstone for Miller Memorial Library was laid on the former site of Hamden's WWII Honor Roll, next to the original location of Grace Episcopal Church on Dixwell Avenue. Assisting in the cornstone ceremony was prominent citizen Thomas Miller, nephew of Willis E. Miller. Mr. Miller was a very early and longtime member of the Hamden Board of Fire Commissioners.
Completed in 1952, the original Miller Memorial Library (below) was located at 2914 Dixwell Avenue, right next door to Hamden's new police headquarters, which also opened that year. When the library closed in 1981 the building was turned over to the police department for additional office space and to house Hamden's new Central Communications dispatch center, which was located in the basement.
Miller Memorial Library (1952-81) - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The building was razed in 2011 to make way for construction of Hamden's new Police Headquarters, which was added to the Dixwell Avenue side of Memorial Town Hall.
Hamden's WWII Honor Roll, as it looked in 1943, was the future site of Miller Memorial Library - CLICK to ENLARGE
Hamden's New Miller Memorial Library
Dedicated October 5, 1980
Centerville School (1917-74) became the new Miller Memorial Library following an extensive renovation - CLICK TO ENLARGE
Miller Memorial Library today - CLICK TO ENLARGE
The old Centerville School building, built in 1917 at 2901 Dixwell Avenue, closed at the end of the 1973-74 school year. For about the next five years it was home to numerous town offices, including those of the fire chief and fire marshal.
A thorough renovation and enlargement of the building began in 1979. On October 5, 1980, approximately 700 people attended the official dedication of the new Miller Memorial Central Library, Cultural Center and Senior Center, which had opened to the public two months earlier.
The adjoining Thornton Wilder Hall Auditorium opened with a production of the play "Our Town." Many personal mementos belonging to Mr. Wilder, who died in 1975, were donated to the library by his sister, Isabel Wilder, with whom he lived on Deepwood Drive.
The Hamden Historical Society's Al Gorman History Room is located on the 3rd floor of Miller Library. From September through June, the history room is open every Tuesday from 10 until 2. Visitors are encouraged to stop by. Archivist Kathy Lindbeck and other Hamden researchers are on hand to address your inquiries.