Bucksport library celebrates 125th birthday

Posted Oct. 31, 2012, at 10:25 a.m.
A 125th birthday party took place Oct. 17 at the Buck Memorial Library on Main Street in Bucksport. The building was deeded to library backers on Oct. 17, 1887.
A 125th birthday party took place Oct. 17 at the Buck Memorial Library on Main Street in Bucksport. The building was deeded to library backers on Oct. 17, 1887.
Geraldine Spooner is the head librarian at Buck Memorial Library in Bucksport.
Geraldine Spooner is the head librarian at Buck Memorial Library in Bucksport.

BUCKSPORT — Jonathan Buck could be excused for chuckling. While his legend overlooks the Hannaford on Main Street, his legacy lives on three blocks to the north — and area residents gathered to celebrate that legacy on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.

Hardly anybody even talked about the legend.

Best known for allegedly executing an alleged witch in the late 18th century, Buck gave his surname to Bucksport and to the Buck Memorial Library, located at 47 Main St. across from the Bucksport Town Office. Just three blocks away is Buck Cemetery, where the alleged witch’s alleged leg and foot are outlined on Buck’s monolith. Ghost-lovers flock to the site.

Book-lovers flock to the library, built with red brick covered by a granite façade. Approximately 30 people met there on Oct. 17 to celebrate the library’s 125th birthday — on the exact anniversary date.

On Monday, Oct. 17, 1887, Charlotte Buck and her daughter, Emmeline Buck, deeded “in consideration of one dollar, to us paid” a “building, together with the Library and Reading Room” to “be called The Buck Memorial Library.” Charlotte was married to Richard Buck, Jonathan’s grandson.

The library could “be used for no other purposes,” and “all persons shall have access to the Library upon the payment of a small annual fee,” Charlotte stipulated. The privately operated library now serves Buck-sport, Orland, and Verona Island; the three towns collectively contribute $18,500 to the library’s annual $60,000 budget.

Today the Buck Memorial Library is “the centerpiece of the community,” said Natalie McFarland, secre-tary of the library’s board of trustees. “We provide services to a wider community. We have a lot of out-of-town patrons also.”

According to Trustee President Robert Blake, the library draws patrons from Penobscot, Prospect, Searsport, and Stockton Springs. Librarian Geraldine Spooner indicated that the library has 2,550 patrons; the collection includes 27,400 books and 400 CDs and DVDs, and last year Buck Memorial Library circulated 12,648 books.

Services include two public-access computers. “The library has a very active children’s program with a story hour every week,” McFarland said.

Speaking before a table decorated with a book-shaped cake, Blake and Bucksport Mayor David Keene welcomed visitors and talked about the library’s importance to Bucksport. “We appreciate the town’s support,” Blake said.

“I remember [checking out] my first book down the hall there” 55 years ago,” said Keene. He recalled “sitting on the [front] steps out there [overlooking Main Street] on a nice summer day” with his childhood friends, “just contemplating life.”

Keene stressed that the Bucksport Town Council “has never wavered in its support for this facility.”

Several current and past trustees attended the birthday party, which featured music by Gina Mitchell, the “Original Condition” bluegrass band, and Bill Gawley. Among past trustees present was Benjamin Blodgett. His father, George L. Blodgett, and grandfather, Benjamin Blodgett, were also trustees, and his great-grandfather, George Blodgett, was an original library trustee.

“We’re thankful for Emmeline’s vision to leave such a lovely building to the town,” said current trustee Jeremy Daigle. He was referring to Emmeline Buck, Jonathan Buck’s great-granddaughter.

The Buck Memorial Library has recently received extensive community support. Architecturally the twin of Porter Memorial Library on Court Street in Machias, the Bucksport library has undergone significant additions and renovations in the last three decades.

An extension was built 22 years ago, according to Nancy Bourgon, trustee secretary. Not many years afterwards, trustees realized that the library needed serious renovations, too.

The problem lay with the building’s six original brick walls. “The mortar is turning to sand,” Bourgon explained. “Each wall had to be rebuilt.”

Gray granite facades covered each wall; each façade must be removed before masons could reset and re-point the bricks. Beginning with the most seriously damaged wall, library supporters raised funds to rebuild four walls so far, with each wall’s reconstruction costing approximately $100,000.

“We don’t borrow money to do it,” McFarland said. Funding has come from area residents and through various grants, including those from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and the Maine Community Foundation.

The four walls were rebuilt one at a time. “Some of the structure had to be reinforced with steel rods,” Bourgon said.

Two walls in the reference room are left. “We have high hopes of [obtaining] a $25,000 [Community Development] block grant” to help finance repairs “of the front wall,” McFarland said. Library officials must match this sum if the grant is approved, she indicated.

Among other challenges facing the Buck Memorial Library, “funding is a challenge,” McFarland said. “Our investments like everybody else’s are not paying what we would like in this economy.”

The library roof “has been done recently,” she said.

People attending the 125th birthday party expressed a collective desire to see the Buck Memorial Library thrive through its sesquicentennial in 2037. “I try to my part, checking out books,” McFarland said.

The library is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-12 noon, Saturday. People interested in supporting the library can send donations to Buck Memorial Library, P.O. Box DD, Bucksport, ME 04416. For more information about the library, log onto http://www.buckmemoriallibrary.50megs.com, email bucklibrary@yahoo.com, or look up the library on Facebook.

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