Willey Hall

The first library in Cabot was founded in 1896. Books were kept in a store or home. The few books were easily moved to any convenient location. The need for new books was great, but there was little money and no place to keep large numbers. Ladies of the Judith Lyford Woman’s Club, which was founded March 6, 1912 with 12 members, saw the need for a town library and began to raise money. 

A former summer resident in Cabot, Charles A. Willey, while visiting during the 1916 Old Home Week celebration, offered to donate two dollars for every dollar they raised. The ladies took the challenge, and within a year raised $3,573.15. True to his word, Charles Willey gave them $7,646.36. With that incentive, Cabot residents donated more money, materials, and labor. Dr. L. W. Burbank was named head of the building committee. He kept records in a notebook that is displayed in the Cabot Historical Society's Main Street Museum. On April 9, 1921, auditors Sheila and G. B. Currier balanced the Original Fund at $13,755.87, including $6.50 still unspent by L. W. Burbank. (Note: The money raised locally would be equivalent to over $76,000 in 2013; Mr. Willey's contribution would be about $164,000. Total cost of the building would be close to $300,000. )

A contract was let in 1920 for $13,000 to build a two-story, 72' by 36' library and town hall. Frank A. Walker of Montpelier was selected architect. B. L. Bruce of Cabot was general contractor. Lumber was milled in Cabot. 

At right is the building as it appeared in 1921, soon after it was built. Town offices were on the first floor, the library and the ladies’ meeting rooms that included a parlor, dining room and a kitchen were on the second floor, and on the third floor there was a large auditorium with a balcony and a stage. 

Mr. Willey died at his winter home in Pasadena, California, October 28, 1918, at age 60. He was President and Treasurer of C. A. Willey Co., of Long Island City, N.Y., manufacturers of automobile and carriage paints, colors, and varnishes, which he founded in 1890 and incorporated in 1905.

C. A. WILLEY'S FINE COACH COLORS ARE TO-DAY BEING used exclusively by a majority of the best Carriage and Coach Builders in the United States. They are absolutely of the very highest quality, and some of the special shades are exquisite. The demand for these colors is growing rapidly, as progressive manufacturers of carriages are looking for material of the best quality that can be procured at a reasonable price. A postal card will bring you information on this subject, which would surely be of value. Write to-day.

C. A. WILLEY, Hunter’s Point, L. I. CITY, N. Y.


Mr. Willey became an expert carriage painter when still young. He worked as a master painter in leading carriage factories in New England and New York City. He never saw the building named in his honor.

The Judith Lyford Woman’s Club held their first meeting in the new building in 1921. During the next 50 years, the Willey Hall hosted plays, dances, and town meetings. The library flourished and Judith Lyford Woman's Club continued their good works, supporting the library and other community organizations with teas, raffles, food sales and Christmas bazaars.  The club dissolved in May, 1971 because dwindling membership made it ever harder to raise money to support their building. On April 16, 1974, the building was deeded to the Town of Cabot, with a condition that the town maintain and support the library and the building for general use and benefit of residents of  Cabot. 

Willey Memorial Hall remains a center for town activities. In 1966, extensive renovations were done at a cost of $300,000, to bring the building up to building code. The second floor library expanded to incorporate the room that had been the parlor of the woman's club. The room was updated with computers, new shelving, and space for events. There is still a small kitchen and abutting meeting room. The third floor has an auditorium for social and town functions. (Town meetings are usually held in the Cabot School gymnasium. The first floor gym is more accessible than the third floor auditorium in  Willey Memorial Hall.) Town offices are in the renovated first floor/basement area, where there are three offices, a large walk-in vault, and a small conference room, often used by the Cabot Select Board and other Cabot committees. The building is handicapped accessible; it has an elevator. It meets all fire and safety codes.