Self-Guided Library Walking Tour
The Solvay Literary Club was organized on October 15, 1900, to operate a Reading Room located in Guild Hall. Although Guild Hall was owned by the Solvay Process Company, the Reading Room was open to all residents of Solvay and the area. Sometime later, the Reading Room became the Union Free School District #2 Library with O. Ware Clary as head librarian. Guild Hall’s Reading Room collection was combined with the high school collection to form the new Solvay Public Library’s collection of 2,042 books on opening day.
On January 14, 1903, as a result of correspondence between Lamont Stilwell, attorney for the Village of Solvay and Andrew Carnegie, Mr. Carnegie offered the village a gift of $10,000 to build a library. The village agreed to contribute $1,000 per year to operate the library and to provide a suitable site for the building. Two sites were offered to the village; Frederick Hazard’s offer of the corner lot on Woods and Orchard Roads was chosen over Mrs. Lucy Gere’s Hall Avenue and Williams Street corner lot. Further, the Solvay Process Company agreed to match Mr. Carnegie’s gift of $10,000 and to provide $500 per year for maintenance and support of the new library.
The Board of Trustees of the Solvay Public Library first met on April 13, 1903. Its first members were Frederick Hazard, George J. Schattle and Charles D. Richards. The Solvay Public Library was granted a charter by the New York State Board of Regents on May 21, 1903.
Architect James A. Randall of Syracuse was employed to design the new library building. He presented his final plans and specifications on October 1, 1902. The initial estimated cost was about $20,000; but when the building opened October 18, 1904, construction cost totaled $27,568.25. The Solvay Process Company and Mr. Hazard contributed a total of $17,568.25 toward the construction fund in addition to donating the site.
At its October 3, 1904 meeting, the library board appointed O. Ware Clary as Librarian, Cornelia Mertens as Assistant Librarian and Gilbert Saxby, janitor. Upon Clary’s retirement in 1911, Miss Mertens became the Librarian and her father, Jacques, became the Assistant Librarian. A portrait of the Mertens still hangs in the library.
The Solvay Public Library operated a branch library in the Boyd Avenue School Building from 1915 to 1928. Additional collections were placed at the Lakeland, Prospect, Fairmount and Taunton Schools; the Geddes Town Hall and the Pass and Seymour factory. By 1916, a regular weekly story hour was being conducted.
Over the years, many community groups have met at the library. Around 1913 the Village Improvement Society and the Boy Scouts met at the library and the Syracuse YWCA conducted Bible Classes for teenagers in the library. During World War I the community room was converted into a club for the soldiers camped at the State Fair Grounds. Mr. Mertens also gave French lessons to the soldiers.
In the 1930’s, the Solvay Garden Club was organized at the library. In 1947, Mrs. James Cooper organized a social club for teens which met on Saturday nights. In later years, the Home Bureau, the Girl Scouts and Cooperative Extension also met at the library.
On January 1, 1962, the library became a member of the Onondaga Library System. It became a member of the Onondaga County Public Library system when the system was formed in 1974. Using combined federal and locally raised funds of over $243,000, the Solvay Public Library was completely renovated in 1979. Renovations included a new heating-air conditioning system, new lighting and wall-to-wall carpeting.
Two years later, the library catalog and circulation was automated. Through the Onondaga County Public Library, Solvay Public Library can secure virtually any book in the United States. In 1986, the Solvay Process Room was created to house the Solvay Process Collection donated by Allied Chemical Corporation.
In 1991, the Community Room at the library was renamed the Daniel W. Casey Community Room, in recognition of Mr. Casey’s many years of dedicated service to the community as a Trustee of the Solvay Public Library. In 2001, the Solvay Centennial Committee donated a cast iron historical marker recognizing the library as a local landmark.
In April, 2008, the Library Addition and Renovation building project was completed. The work added an elevator and restored much of the existing building. Furniture salvaged from Hazard School was renovated and used in the Library.
On October 20, 2019, Solvay Public Library celebrated it’s 115th Anniversary as one of the oldest Carnegie Libraries still in operation.