16 South Main Street
Wilmington can well be proud of the fact that much of the time during more than a century and a half of her history a public library or libraries has existed in the village. Records show that as early as 1796, a Wilmington Social Library was founded in town with each founder asking an original contribution of one and a half dollars and paying an annual fee of fifty cents for the purchase of books. During the years between the state and the founding of the present library two other library collections of books were in use in town. One of these was the library of the Wilmington Library Association, the other was an Agricultural Library. Some books from both these collections are preserved in the Pettee Memorial Library.
The present library had its origin in 1895 when the voters of Wilmington appropriated $100 for the purpose of establishing a Free Public Library. The sum was matched by a contribution from the State Board of Library Commission. The books purchased with the resulting $200 were placed in a bookcase, constructed by George B. Haynes, and put in the post office, then located in a room in H. F. Barber and Son's store. Until the services of Miss Ellen Putnam were obtained as librarian, the postmaster, E. H. Porter, acted as librarian.
When Miss Putnam became librarian, the case of books was moved to a room in the Town Hall. Later when the post office was moved to a building where the present LaMorder block stands, the Library, now having grown to fill two bookcases, was moved to the old post office building. Here it remained until 1906 when it was moved into its present home and its name was changed to The Pettee Memorial Library.
The Pettee Memorial Library building was a gift to the town from Lyman F. Pettee in memory of his father and mother, Dr. and Mrs. Anson L. Pettee, life-long residents of Wilmington. The old high school building at the corner of South Main and Beaver Streets was moved to provide the site for the structure. The architect was Paul C. Hunter of New York City and the cost of construction was $6000.
In 1927 the Town appropriated funds to enlarge and repair the building. The rear wall was taken down and the stack room extended to make it twice its former size.The financial support of the library has come from appropriations of town funds and from endowments.
Wilmington has been fortunate in the long years of devoted service given by her librarians. Miss Helen Buell first assumed the duties of librarian in 1899 when still a school girl. With the exception of nine years (1904 - 1913) she was librarian until her death in 1946. This was a period of thirty-eight years of faithful, willing service for the pleasure and betterment of her fellow townspeople. Mrs. Lettie Kingsley Wheeler also began her work in the library when still a school girl. She was librarian or assistant librarian for thirty-four of the years between 1904 and 1960. Others who have worked as librarians include Margaret Greene, Claudia Green, Vivian Miles, Erin Dean, David Martel, and present Director Carol Waseleski.
In 1998, 70 years after the previous expansion, Pettee Memorial Library again embarked on a total renovation and rehabilitation of the building. The taxpayers of Wilmington voted to raise monies and a grant from the Library Services and Construction Act through the State of Vermont secured funding. The firm of Gordon Ketterer Associates was hired to draw the plans and oversee the project. It is interesting to note that Ann Bayard Ketterer is the daughter of Clifford Bayard long time library trustee. In 1998 the library was completely re-wired, new lighting and paint brighten the interior, a stairwell and handicapped accessible elevator were added. The dark, damp, musty basement was transformed into a bright, airy, cheerful children's room, accessible restroom, offices, storage, and furnace rooms.