Saco in York County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)
The Dyer Library, Founded 1882
Saco Museum Main Street Walk
While Saco was served by a number of membership libraries and reading rooms earlier, including that of the York Institute, now the Saco Museum, the City's first truly public library opened in 1882. The library was the creation of Olive and Oliver Dyer, whose estate funded the library that bears the Dyer name today. The earlier libraries operated by fee or membership. Thanks to the Dyer family, Saco was able to establish a universal literary retreat for its residents.
When Olive Dyer died in 1879, she designated $36,613 in her will for a city library. Her husband, Oliver, a Biddeford native who died in 1872, had made his fortune in Boston and expressed a desire for a truly public library in Saco, to which he had retired and served briefly as mayor.
Olive stipulated that only $5,000 should go towards securing a building. This was not enough to build a new structure or find a space solely for the library. It was, however, enough money to start the library by using a basement room in Saco City Hall. In 1881, the Dyer Libary Association was established, and in 1882, the library opened. Sarah W. Tucker was hired as librarian
In 1892 the library moved next door to 308 Main Street a building funded chiefly by Sarah Bradbury the widow of John C. Bradbury, the first president of the library trustees. The first permanent home of the library, which still stands, was designed by architect Horace Wadlin (1851-1925), of Reading, Massachusetts. Wadlin designed six buildings in Saco and Biddeford, most linked to the execution of the will of the philanthropist Cornelius Sweetner, who was a distant cousin. Wadlin, besides being an accomplished architect, was the head librarian at the Boston Public Library from 1903 to 1916.
That building is primarily eclectic Colonial Revial in design, with elements of the Romanesque. As originally designed, the interior was largely one open space, divided visually by a broad wooden double arch. The front space was the reading room, which featured an oak common table and a large open fireplace. The rear space served as a book room. The first floor was finished with paneled oak wainscoting and the walls and ceiling were painted pure white to reflect light. Patrons would ask library staff to retrieve books from the closed stacks.
AFter more than half a century in this building, the Dyer Library moed north in 1955 to its present home at 371 Main Street. The Deering MAnsion was a gift to the Dyer Library Association from Board of Trustees President Joseph G. Deering and his sister, Annie Katherine Deering, who funded the remodeling of the house to fit the library's needs, and provided other generous gifts to the library. This two-story brick Italianate mansion, had been constructed in 1870 for the Deerings' grandfather, also named Joseph G. Deering. IT came to the younger Deerings from their father, Frank Cutter Deering. The house had been renovated several times including a 1915 remodeling which involved the renowned Maine architect John Calvin Stevens and a 1920 remodeling designed by Saco architect Jseph Stickney.
The 1955 remodeling connected the main building to the carriage house, which now serves as the children's room and as meeting rooms. A new main entrance was completed in 2006. A dramatic three-story observatory tower with large refacting telescope added in the 1930s to the rear of the main house was also relocated at that time to Thornton Academy.
Erected by Saco Museum.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture • Charity & Public Work • Education. A significant historical year for this entry is 1882.
Location. 43° 30.092′ N, 70° 26.531′ W. Marker is in Saco, Maine, in York County. Marker is on Main Street (U.S. 1) just north of Elm Street (U.S. 1), on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 372 Main St, Saco ME 04072, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Saco Museum, Founded 1866 (within shouting distance of this marker); War Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Veterans' Memorial at Eastman Park (about 300 feet away); World War Memorial (about 300 feet away); Spanish War and Philippine Insurrection Memorial (about 300 feet away); Veterans Memorial (about 300 feet away); Jacob Cochran, 1782-1836 (about 400 feet away); Samuel Brannan and the Gold Rush (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Saco.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 19, 2021. It was originally submitted on November 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 55 times since then and 27 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on November 19, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.