Willey Memorial Hall

The first library in Cabot was founded in 1896.  Books were housed sometimes at a store or in someone's home. and the few books available were easily carried to whatever location became convenient. The need for new books was great, but there was little money and no place to keep them in large numbers.  The ladies of the Judith Lyford Woman’s Club, which was founded in 1912 with 12 members, realized the need for a town library and set about raising money for that purpose. 

A former summer resident in Cabot,  Charles Willey, while visiting during the 1916 Old Home Week celebration , learned of their efforts and offered to donate two dollars for every dollar they raised.  The ladies took the challenge, and within a year had raised $3,573.15.  True to his word, Charles Willey gave them his check for $7,646.36.  With that incentive, local individuals donated additional money,  materials and time for the project.  Dr. L. W. Burbank was named head of the building committee, and kept records in a notebook that we have  on display at the Cabot Historical Society, Main Street, Cabot, Vermont.   On April 9, 1921, auditors Sheila and G. B. Currier balanced the Original  Fund at $13,755.87, which included $6.50 still unspent by L. W. Burbank.  (Note:  The money the ladies raised would amount to over $76,000 in 2013; Mr. Willey's contribution would amount to about $164,000, and the total cost of the building would be close to $300,000. )

At right is the building as it appeared soon after it was built in 1921. 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 in California in 1918, and  never saw the building he helped build.  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 the Judith Lyford Woman's Club continued their good work supporting the library and other community organizations with teas, raffles, food sales and Christmas bazaars to keep the shelves filled with new books,  The club was dissolved in May, 1971 because of dwindling membership and the increasingly impossible task of raising money to support the building they'd worked so hard to build.  On April 16, 1974, the building was deeded to the Town with the condition that the town maintain and support the library and the building for the general use and benefit of the residents of the Town of Cabot. 

Willey Memorial Hall is still a center for town activities.  Extensive renovations were done in 1996 at a cost of $300,000, to bring the building to today’s building code standards.  The second floor library has expanded to incorporate the room that had served as the parlor for the woman's club, and has been updated with computers, new shelving, and space for events.  There remains a small kitchen and meeting room. The third floor has an auditorium for social and town functions, but town meetings are at present conducted in the school gymnasium.  Town offices are in the nicely renovated first floor/basement area where there are three offices, a large walk-in vault and a small conference room. The building is handicap-accessible, there’s an elevator, and all fire and safety codes are met.  



Comments