The history of the Southport Library begins prior to 1906 when Susan and Rebecca Zabriskie moved to Newagen from New York. They had a large collection of books, many of them inherited from their father, a pastor of the Dutch Reform Church. Since there was no library on Southport, they decided to lend their collection out to the neighborhood. At first the books were loaned from the ladies' cottage on Bayberry Lane.
In 1906, the books were moved into a small building on the (Newagen) Town Landing Road which was called "The Bayberry Camp Library". It was open every afternoon in the summer and on Saturday afternoon in the winter. In 1909, the sisters hired Edith Snowman, a fifteen year old from the neighborhood, to serve as librarian, a position she held for the next fifty years. The Zabriskie sisters gave a sum of money annually for the purchase of new books, and other people donated as well. There was a stage at one end of the building, so it was used for neighborhood get-togethers, especially the annual Christmas Eve party.
In 1947, Southport consolidated its grammar schools, so the one-room schoolhouse at Newagen became available. Two fortuitous things happened around that time: the two Zabriskie sisters donated their five thousand book collection to the town, and the town set aside some money for a memorial to the town's veterans of World Wars I and II. At the suggestion of Charlie Pinkham, the town decided to "kill two birds with one stone" and turn the vacant schoolhouse into a memorial library. The committee appointed to accomplish this included Cecil Pierce, Kenneth Pinkham, and Ralph Gray, who was married to Edith Snowman, the librarian. Volunteers cleaned and painted the building, carried the five thousand books up the road, and donated more books, money, and furniture. With the library now funded by the town, Edith (Snowman) Gray received a salary of five dollars a week. The new library was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1948. There is a plaque on a stone outside the building, which says that the library is a memorial to those who have served in all wars. It is the first stop for the Southport Island parade on Memorial Day. Inside, on the front wall, the town's veterans are listed from WWI through Viet Nam. Also outside the building is a plaque on a stone in memory of Rachel Carson, who had a cottage on the Salt Pond Road and did considerable research for her book, "Silent Spring", on the shore in front of her cottage.
In 2009, successful fund-raising led to yet another needed, new addition. The Friends of the Library, headed by Jean Hawley, raised close to one million dollars over a ten year period, resulting in a large two storey, 30'x80' addition with two handicapped-accessible bathrooms, an office, an elevator, and a dozen storage closets.Â Adult fiction and non-fiction moved into the new rooms, making the
original, overstuffed library roomy and pleasant.Â Dr. and Mrs. Juriga donated ten signed and numbered Roger Tory Peterson prints to grace the walls, and Cy Seifert's brilliant idea of asking people to donate their college chairs provided much needed furniture for all the new space. At this time thirty chairs have been donated. Additional funds were raised to provide attractively re-designed landscaping around the new and original portions of the building, highlighting the Rachel Carson garden in front.Â The Southport Island Association was a lead contributor to this project.
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