Monday, September 27, 2021

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Ivoryton Library Hosts 150th Anniversary Kick-Off Event

The Ivoryton Library will celebrate its 150th anniversary this year, with a kick-off event that includes a time capsule dedication at the library, 106 Main Street in Ivoryton, from 3 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14. A rain date is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 15.

The library, intricately woven into the history of the village of Ivoryton, was first started by a group of women named the Ladies’ Society in 1871. This circle of women were the wives of the owners and managers of the ivory importer and manufacturer, Comstock, Cheney & Company.

“They decided that the area needed a library, and so they each donated a dollar and with the money bought 14 books,” said Ivoryton Library Association Director Elizabeth Alvord.

The books were placed on a shelf at the Ivoryton Inn, which was then a men’s boardinghouse. In 1872, the lending library was moved to the home of Sarah Cheney. She served as the first librarian until the current building on Main Street was built in 1889.

The new library building was a community effort from the start. The Ivoryton Ladies’ Society raised funds and, along with a donation from Comstock, Cheney & Company, paid to hire an architect and builders to construct the library. The land for the library building was donated by Elizabeth Northrop, a member of the Comstock family.

When the building was complete, “They got a lot of volunteers to just walk the books, which by then were numbered in the hundreds, from Sarah Cheney’s house down the road to what we know as the Ivoryton Library,” said Alvord.

The library building is one of the oldest in Connecticut that has operated continuously as a library, according to Alvord. The total cost to build the library in 1889 was $3,242.

Over the years, it has evolved from its humble beginnings to now housing a collection of 9,000 books and other items and offering a variety of programs.

“Until about the ‘90s, it was really this small, little place with one librarian,” said Alvord. “It was just a quintessential small-town library.”

Alvord, who has been director since 2012, credits her predecessor, Robbie Storms, with expanding staffing levels, including hiring Alvord, who was given full creative license to develop some of the various programs that exist today.

The library is also heavily involved with town events, like the Fourth of July parade and Pumpkin Festival, just to name two examples.

“We are really involved with the community and supporting other organizations in the community and asking them to help us with programs or other educational initiatives,” said Alvord.

The reception on Aug. 14 to celebrate the library’s 150 years will be held in the library’s back garden. It will feature Chris Pagliuco, a local historian, as guest speaker, and a time capsule will be planted in the library’s front garden bed, under the stone elephant.

The items in the time capsule will include artifacts pertaining to how the library exists today, such as a copy of its operating budget and a list of popular books.

It will also include information on how the library responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and ephemera related to the 2020 presidential election and the Black Lives Matter movement.

A special component of the time capsule dedication is the participation of two local children, Aliza and Marissa Cirillo, who are volunteering in the Children’s Department this summer. The Cirillo sisters have agreed to be guardians of the time capsule, which means they will return to the Ivoryton Library when the capsule is opened in 50 years.

The library will also host a series of fundraisers this fall: Paint Night at the Ivoryton Inn is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 8; a Birthday Gala for the library at the Essex Steam Train is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1; and a Murder Mystery Dinner at the Copper Beach is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 6.

Information on how to purchase tickets for these events or to contribute to the library’s 150th Anniversary Endowment Fund is available at

Elizabeth Reinhart covers news for Chester, Deep River, and Essex for Zip06. Email Elizabeth at

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