The Margaret Reaney Memorial Library was a gift to the Village of St. Johnsville by local textile manufacturer, Joseph H. Reaney. Built in 1909, with a later addition in 1936, the gracious tapestry brick and gray granite building sits amid its own lovely park on a quiet side street. The building is dedicated in memory of Mr. Reaney's beloved mother, Margaret Julia Reaney.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Joseph and his mother returned to her hometown of Utica, New York, following her husband's death from tuberculosis in 1870. The senior Mr. Reaney had been a member of the 5th New York Duryee Zouaves during the Civil War. A statue commemorating the soldiers and sailors of the war is dedicated to his memory and is located on the south lawn.
Joseph H. Reaney came to St. Johnsville in 1892 with a nest egg of $600. He had been a traveling salesman, and one day asked himself, "If I can sell other people's products, why not sell my own?' From this soul-searching question came a vision, and with abundant mental and physical energy the Reaney Industrial Dream became a reality. After arriving in St. Johnsville, Mr. Reaney purchased a small plant on North Division Street, where he started with six knitting machines.
He managed to survive the 1893 financial panic of the nation, and in fact, even managed to expand. In 1895, in company with Clarence Taylor, the Lion Mill on Lion Avenue was built. The association with Mr. Taylor was short lived, and Mr. Reaney began for himself in 1897, manufacturing in the Petit Bijou Plant on South Division Street. In 1900 be built the Royal Mill on New Street. Two years later his vision extended to Herkimer where be bought the Gem Mill, and incorporated under the name of Royal Gem Mill Co.
In 1906 he took over the Union Mills at Hudson and Mechanicville, New York. Four years later he purchased to more mills at Catskill and another one in Herkimer. Mr. Reaney now had eight mills with a production of 50,000 dozens of undergarments per week. The Reaney Dream had come true.
His endless energy elevated him to one of the nation's leaders in the textile trade. He not only had a natural ability and genius for mass production, but was sought after as an organizer and financier. He put these strengths to use as consultant in various enterprises. During World War I he was a dollar-a-year man with with war industries board.
The development of the library dates well back to the last century. It came from the determination of a small, but devoted, band of women who gave of their time and substance in the matter of promoting a cultural atmosphere which they felt would benefit the community.
In 1900 a society was organized among the the women of the village, known as the Book Club, which was soon changed to the Century Club. The purpose of this organization was to purchase books and eventually pool their purchases for the benefit of the public, in a reading room. From this grass roots effort the Margaret Reaney Memorial Library was developed.
On entering the building one is immediately aware that this is not "just" a library. A well maintained original tin ceiling has recently been repainted. Softly aglow in creamy white and trimmed in pale rose, the ceiling evokes memories of days gone by when individuals spent hours contemplating the far away places and ideas described in books.
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