Our Library - the Early Years
Our Library – A bit more about its early years
The Historical Society has installed a pop-up exhibit in the Library’s vertical display case for this year’s Old Home Day entitled “Levi the Librarian.” Not to waste some of the historical tidbits we learned, here are a few more words about those early years in the Library’s history. The exhibit itself will be up until the second week in September.
North Hampton has had a public library since 1892. For fifteen years, its home was the room in Town Hall that is on the left as you enter the building. The one room was most likely only open one day a week, Saturday. Patrons were limited to adults and scholars (high school students). In its second year of operation there were 250 books. The only staff member was Levi Fogg, the first Librarian, who was paid $25 - annually.
In the Town Annual Report for the Fiscal Year ending 2/15/1899 Librarian Fogg made the first pitch for a Library building. Selling points included keeping up with our neighbors in Seabrook and Greenland who had beautiful new libraries, thanks to two benefactors.
David Pingree of Salem, MA built the Brown Library in Seabrook in memory of his cousin Augustus Sewell Brown, a former Seabrook resident who had donated 175 books to Seabrook’s Reading Room Circle and $100 to start a Library building fund.
In Greenland Caroline Avery Weeks announced in 1897 that she intended to build a public library on the former Clough estate. The building was accepted at Town Meeting in 1898. I wonder if there were any no votes? I expect there were. It was dedicated later that year in memory of her late husband George Weeks, Mary T. Weeks and J. Clement Weeks.
No one in North Hampton felt that generous but Levi Fogg gave it a try. In the next Town Annual Report, he pushed for money from the wealthy as well as all taxpayers.
It took a few more years (seem like déjà vu all over again?) but Town meeting in 1905 did approve hiring an architect, J.L. Berry of Boston, to draw up plans. Votes to pay for a building went back and forth for a few years and by the time the town voters had finally approved the $5000 cost in 1907, Berry had changed the plans from brick to stone, in effect duplicating his plan for Woburn’s Eunice Thompson Memorial library that had been constructed in 1906. That Tudor Revival building also still exists but, just like North Hampton’s, is no longer a library.
Fogg, a member of the four-man Building Committee, remained Librarian during the construction and first years of the new building. By 1912 his salary amounted to $75. The Library had 1800 books, and issued 100 library cards to residents. The population of North Hampton was under 800 in 1910 and the average household size in the U.S. that year was 4.54 persons.
No Dewey Decimal cataloging system or browsing back then. Libraries printed lists of their holdings by topic and patrons would request what they wished to see. In North Hampton’s case, the Library would post notices of new books in the Exeter News-Letter.
So who was Levi Fogg and what qualified him to be Librarian? Levi Woodbury Fogg was born in 1845, a son of David and Elvia Smith Fogg, making him 47 years old in 1892 when he became Librarian. In census records and business directories, he’s described as a farmer. He and his family lived at 139 Atlantic Avenue, a beautiful house then and now. He must have been proud of his house and family because the Historical Society has three late nineteenth century photographs of the house that also provide indistinct views of him and family members.
But if one digs a bit deeper, Fogg left some other tracks. He graduated in 1872 from Bridgewater (MA) State Normal School, now Bridgewater State University. Normal schools taught high school graduates to become teachers. Fogg taught for several years and also served as principal of a grammar school in Waltham, MA. He married a Tarlton (Mary Ellen), a daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah Taylor Tarlton of North Hampton (who lived at 41 Atlantic Avenue for those interested in houses).
Fogg served as a Selectman in 1888 and was elected North Hampton’s State Representative in 1907. He evidently liked being Librarian, and perhaps the steady salary, because he remained on the job until his resignation in 1913. He died in 1918 and is buried, not in the Fogg family graveyard beyond the School, but in Center Cemetery.
For additional info about the original Library building, here’s the link to the National Register application on the Heritage Commission’s webpage on the Town website.
For info about the two Atlantic Ave. houses, see the Town-wide Historic Resources booklet also available on the Heritage Commission page.