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SEE ALL SIGNED BOOKS by J. Dennis Robinson click here
Discovering the History of Discover Portsmouth
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A library for the public

– In 1871, inspired by a sermon at the South Church, the Young People’s Union was created to provide a library and youth center for local teens.  Three rooms were set aside at the corner of Vaughan and Congress streets. Technically, this was the birth of the Portsmouth Public Library. When the group folded a few years later the books were stored, temporarily, in the basement of the Unitarian Chapel. That building is now gone.

-- In 1881 the books from the Young People’s Union were made available to the public in one room on the top floor of the old Custom House on Daniel Street. The city took responsibility for the collection and hired a librarian to catalog the books. The collection was moved twice more before finding a permanent home in the old Academy building. Hon. Frank Jones’ $500 bequest grew, with contributions, to over $10,000. A number of private book collections were donated to the growing library shelves.

-- While the public library was evolving elsewhere, a group of Civil War veterans and friends leased the old Academy building. The Storer Post of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) planned to create a Memorial Hall there. Almost immediately, the city began to negotiate with the Storer Post about taking over their lease and sharing the building as both a library and an exhibit hall. When the city was slow to renovate the building, the GAR sued the city and won $5,000 to break its lease.

-- After paying off the Storer Post, the city took over the lease on the Academy building. They gutted it, and rebuilt the interior for about $5,500. A glass skylight was added to illuminate the interior. The Portsmouth Public Library occupied the building in 1896. The city purchased it officially in 1906 and stayed on this site for 100 years until the new library building opened on Parrott Ave. in 2006.  There have been only six city librarians in that entire time.

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