Mystery, romance, science fiction, and biographies; the options are endless when it comes to books. All of these wonders can be found tucked away in a riverside home in Hampden. More than 30 years ago, this beautiful, private residence filled with novels and surrounded by trees, nature, and solitude was gifted to the residents of Hampden to create the town’s first public library. Now the Edythe L. Dyer Community Library is one of the area’s most treasured and beloved landmarks.
“The library for the town had been in the high school at the time. The librarian used to come and visit Mrs. Dyer who was a trustee of the library. Mrs. Dyer’s husband passed away while building the house or just after it was completed around 1980,” explained Debbie Lozito, the library director.
Just two short years later, Lozito went on to share, “Mrs. Dyer said, ‘I want to give this to the town.’ It’s hard to quantify and articulate its value. It has been a really great gift for the area.”
Mrs. Dyer, who was an avid reader, also gifted a lot of her own collection of books to the library when she moved to Mount Desert Island.
“She left us a lot of books, which were mostly old mysteries of her era. The tower room is where we keep her books in glass cases,” explained Lozito.
Renovations began shortly after Mrs. Dyer donated her home in 1982. It was then that a name was also chosen for the library.
“I learned recently that she really didn’t want this named for her. She just wanted it to be the Hampden Public Library,” said Lozito. “The confusing thing is, is it was really named after Mrs. Dyer’s granddaughter, who has the same name, not the person who owned the building. Little Edythe was just five years old at the time.”
Lozito said some of the doorways were moved and bookshelves were built, but many of the home’s distinctive characteristics and charms like its façade, fireplaces, pine floors and tiles all remained intact.
“The rooms themselves stayed the same. No walls were taken down except for the pool area, which is now the children’s room. We had to have that filled in with cement and the front door where you come in used to be the garage,” explained Lozito. “Every year, when the first graders come for a field trip we ask, ‘What room do you think this was?’ The garage of course is always the hardest [for them]. They need a clue. The foyer, they don’t really get. So we ask if they have a mud room at their house, and we say ours is fancy, we call it a foyer.”
For many years, the library stood alone at the edge of the forest along the Penboscot River. Only those venturing out for books, magazines or a children’s DVD made their way down the long road from the edge of Main Road North in Hampden to the library’s parking lot.
“It used to be very isolated. We were the only ones up here with just fields and woods, before the Avalon Village [retirement community] homes were built,” explained Lozito. “The thing I loved [in those early years] before the driveway was paved, was that if you were the first one to arrive in the winter, your tracks were the first ones here. It was really beautiful.”
Attendance slowly grew at the library and as it did, Lozito and other library employees kept Mrs. Dyer informed of its popularity.
“She was a very private person, but she did like to find out what was going on. We sent her cards and had all the kids sign it,” said Lozito.
Both patrons and the wildlife alike have enjoyed the library.
“One time, I was doing story time in the children’s area and all of sudden the kids weren’t paying attention. I looked around and saw there was a moose with its calf walking behind me out the window,” said Lozito. “We’ve also seen foxes and turkeys.”
In 1995, Mrs. Dyer passed away. A portrait of her as a young girl reading a book is displayed for all visitors to see. The picture is on the wall just past the front desk at the library. Both her memory and her generosity are still felt by so many in the community today.
“The beauty of the library is it is a place you can come without an expectation of purchasing anything or someone saying, ‘I think you’ve been here too long.’ We want people to be comfortable and want to come back, which they do,” said Lozito. “We have over 2,000 people a month come in. For a small library in a small town, it’s very special and it is well used. I think Mrs. Dyer would appreciate that.”