History of the Library
In 1879, the year Thomas Edison invented the incandescent electric light, the little farming community of Chappaqua had a small library with approximately 475 books. Its history is fragmentary but we know it had ceased operations by 1897.
The history of the library as a continuing institution really begins in 1922 when Elise Hewitt Bayley had organized a committee of women volunteers to operate a library in a former grocery store. It was located on the west side of the railroad tracks near the current northbound entrance to the Saw Mill River Parkway. in a former grocery store. The library was open two afternoons a week. Inside there were a few long tables painted black, several Windsor chairs painted turquoise, and six low bookcases. By the end of the year, there were 2,683 volumes on the shelves, mostly gathered from people's attics and barns.
By 1928, the community was convinced the library needed a building of its own to hold the ever-growing collection, then over 5,300 volumes, as well as the many community members who came to browse. The community raised the $20,000 needed by public subscriptions. The plans were drawn by Alfred Bussell and are believed to have been executed by Samuel Horsfall, neither of whom would accept a penny for their work.
In 1930, the new library was opened on Senter Street, in what is now the Community Center. There was a fireplace to greet the patrons and a "real" children's room. An addition was made to that building in 1957. Called "the wing", it was larger than the original building.
By 1970, it was agreed that a new and larger building was needed. The community voted to change from a Free Association Library to a School District Library, which would allow the approval of a bond issue to pay for a new library. The Friends of the Library was founded in 1972 to help build public support for the project.
After a long search and the rejection of several locations, the Grunfelds donated their property on South Greeley Avenue for the explicit use of a new library building in 1974. The building was designed by Chappaqua resident Philip M. Chu and opened in December, 1978.
In 1986, a children's program room was added to accommodate the ever growing number of children's programs and small group meetings. The year 2006 saw the expansion of the front of the library and the rearrangement of a portion of the collection and service areas.
That small farming village is now a vibrant community of a population over 17,000. The library now offers more than 254,000 physical and digital items and has added streaming services in addition to programs for patrons of all ages and space for the community to study, read and enjoy.
Today, the Chappaqua Library serves as a vibrant focal point of the community.
History of the Chappaqua Library 2022 (PDF)
Elise Hewitt Bayley 1922
Maida Gedney Mills 1925
Bernice Merritt 1944
Margarete Handley 1950
Alice W. Grafflin 1966
Doris B. Lowenfels 1973
Mark P. Hasskarl 1984
Pamela Thornton 2007
Andrew Farber 2020