GENESEO – The Wadsworth Library building is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with several events, including a rededication ceremony on Aug. 19.
The event will include a keynote speaker from the Wadsworth family, a ribbon cutting, sharing of memories of the library building, old-time children’s games on the lawn of the nearby Livingston County Historical Society Museum, cake and refreshments and music by Get Off My Lawn. The celebration is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Wadsworth Library, 24 Center St.
The Wadsworth Library building was constructed in 1867, two years before Wadsworth Library, the institution, was even a thing. If this sounds strange, a bit of history is in order: prior to a legal act by the State of New York establishing Wadsworth Library as a public library in 1869, it existed as the Wadsworth Athenaeum. Like other Athenaeums, the Wadsworth Athenaeum functioned as both library and museum. By the 1860s, the Athenaeum had begun to shift away from its museum role and focused instead on growing its library. It wasn’t long before the collection outgrew its little building (which still exists as the east wing of the house at 28 Center St., just two doors up from Wadsworth Library).
Library trustees selected B.C. Dean of Buffalo to construct the new library (described as “a combination of Corinthian and Italian style … and built of the best Buffalo pressed brick”) for a sum of $13,000. Among the beautiful interior details was a floor made of alternate strips of walnut and white ash.
Early records indicate that General James S. Wadsworth lent a considerable sum – upwards of $5,000 – for the new library building, but after his death in the Civil War in 1864, the loan was never called in. So, like the Athenaeum which his father, “Old” James, had bankrolled, the origin of the present Wadsworth Library building can be largely credited to the generosity of that…