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The Memorial and Library Association of Westerly was established in 1892 to commemorate the volunteer soldiers and sailors who fought in the Civil War. Westerly Public Library opened its doors in 1894 through the initiative of local industrialist-inventor, Stephen Wilcox. Mr. Wilcox donated the land on which the library is situated, as well as $25,000 to be matched by citizens of the community.

Originally the library included a bowling alley, gymnasium, art gallery, museum, and meeting space for the Grand Army of the Republic. On opening day, August 15, 1894, the Westerly Public Library had a collection of 5,000 volumes, and the building was open 24 hours each week. In 1992, the citizens raised money towards an addition that nearly doubled the size of the building.