Merrick Public Library
banister memorial hall
In 1867, State Supreme Court Justice Pliny Merrick of Brookfield donated $10,000 and his personal collection of books (450 volumes plus 150 pamphlets and periodicals) for the foundation of the Merrick Public Library. The first Trustees meeting was held in April of 1867 at the Brookfield High School on Central Street, where the Fire House stands today. The Merrick Public Library was originally housed in a large room at the high school, prior to the construction of its current location.
In March of 1883, for the sum of $1.00, Mrs. Nancy Felton donated to the town of Brookfield a corner lot, where Elm Street (now Common Street) and Lincoln Street converge. This donation was made in memory of Mrs. Felton's late husband, the Honorable Oliver Crosby Felton, and came with two requirements. The first, that a library building be constructed within two years time, and secondly, that the building not cost any less than $8,000.
The construction of the library building was made possible by a donation of $10,000 from Mr. William A. Banister, a Brookfield native, with the stipulation that it be named Banister Memorial Hall. The architectural plan submitted by Wait and Cutter of Boston was chosen, and Springfield contractor Levi Moody selected to erect the structure. The completed building was dedicated on January 31, 1884: Merrick Public Library, Banister Memorial Hall.
The fundamental structure of the historic Romanesque and Queen Anne style masonry appears sound and remains essentially unchanged since its construction. The library building is composed of bricks manufactured in Brookfield, laid upon a faced granite foundation, and trimmed with Longmeadow brownstone. The ridges, chimney, and front also boast terra cotta work, and the interior, including shelves, cases, and desks, is finished in birch.
In 1898, the Trustees voted to build a gallery - capable of holding 10,000 books - over the main book room. In 1901, Yale locks were placed on the library's two exterior doors and the keys entrusted to the librarian and Trustees. Two decades later, in 1921, the building was wired for electricity, and a water closet with plumbing installed in 1934. An HVAC system replaced the American Boiler heating system in 2002, and an ADA handicap ramp was added to the Lincoln Street entrance.
The Merrick Public Library houses several special items, including a French writing desk from the Palace of Versailles during the occupancy of Louis XVI (husband of Marie Antoinette), prior to 1792. The desk was originally given to William B. Draper in 1863, as a souvenir from Le Marquis Bernard de Marigny. In 1867, Mr. Draper donated the desk to 'the inhabitants of Brookfield,' and it has been on display in the library since 1914, with intermittent periods of storage.