City Hall, 1899 - 1906


Two women’s organizations, the “Woman’s Club” and the “Progressive Study Club” were responsible for the idea of starting a library in 1899. They donated books, raised money to buy supplies, developed public awareness, incorporated the association under State laws and elected a board of directors. Articles of Incorporation for the Watertown Public Library were signed April 22, 1899. There were seven directors or trustees, to include “not less than two and not more than three” women. The corporation was planned to cover the next twenty years. The Board of Directors included: Mayor J J Clutten, Mrs. Agnes M. Sheafer, Mrs. Addie E. Addison, Mrs. Minnie S. Brown, D. T. Walker, Dr. H. M. Finnerud, and W. R. Thomas.

The City Hall was located at 160 W. Kemp Ave. (where the High Rise is today). Two rooms in the second story of the city hall were fixed up for the use of the library association. A few feet of shelving, two tables, and a few chairs constituted the furnishings. It was open to the public every afternoon and evening in the charge of a librarian.

A public reception was held at the rooms of the library.

“You and your friends are invited
To attend the Public Library Reception
to be given by the people of Watertown
at the city hall
Friday evening, February 2, 1900
at 8 o’clock
Every friend of the Library can
help it along by donating a book
or more on that occasion”

The reception netted about 100 volumes “including four sets of Kipling that looked well on the shelves but were never used.” Mrs. Harriet (Hattie) Tuthill was hired as the first librarian and the library opened Tuesday, March 6, 1900. Mrs. Tuthill was paid $20 per month. By the end of the first year the library contained 900 volumes and 40 periodicals and newspapers.

After five years of operation, finances became a problem. The Directors decided to form a “stock company” with shares sold at $1 a piece. Some businesses bought fifty shares, and one of the women’s clubs bought seventy-five shares. Later, memberships (subscriptions) sold for $1 per year. Within six years, the use of the library outgrew the two rooms at City Hall and it was decided to build a library. The oldest Watertown Public Library was in existence from 1899 to 1905.

Extractions from the Watertown Public Opinion Archives, Watertown Regional Library Archives

Written by Jacquelyn Baxter, Summer 2007