Erected to commemorate the noble deeds of the volunteer soldiers and sailors of Westerly and vicinity in maintaining the union.
“Till the mountains are worn out and the rivers forget to flow shall their names be kept fresh with reverent honors which are inscribed upon the book of “National Remembrance.”
Henry Ward Beecher
The words above are written on a bronze plaque on the wall outside the auditorium on the second floor. Not only did Stephen Wilcox buy the land and donate money for a library, but he also suggested that it serve as a Civil War Memorial.
The Narragansett Weekly on August 16, 1894 ran a special supplement on the dedication of the Memorial and Library building. The opening article began, “The Town of Westerly has always been proud of the men who went from it to the civil war from the first call of President Lincoln until the fall of the confederacy. It honors the memory of those who fell fighting for their country, as it respects the heroism of those who returned.”
The new building included a Library, Memorial Hall for Posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, and a YMCA gymnasium. Mr. Stephen Wilcox “thought $50,000 would be sufficient for the purpose, and it was his wish that both sides of the river—Pawcatuck and Westerly alike—should be benefited by it.”
The original library contained 5,000 books. “The greater portion of the 5,000 volumes came from the Pawcatuck Library Association, which had occupied the Old Academy Building on Union Street for many years, until its removal to make way for the new building erected by the fire district.” Over the years, the Board of Trustees has acknowledged that original donation of books by including Pawcatuck residents as voting members and by giving all the citizens of Stonington borrowing privileges at the Westerly Library. These privileges extend to all the public libraries in the state of Rhode Island.
For more information contact Kathryn Taylor at 596-2877 extension 303.