The Adams Memorial Library
Loaning among friends was the first form of book exchange in Central Falls. Resident Ornam Patt, in his memoirs, recalls “book trading” in mill buildings on Mill Street as far back as the 1830’s. The Mois and Jenks shop, and that of Benedict and Woods, maintained a collection of books and it was in the latter that a library first established itself in 1847. The next mention of a book collection in the historical record refers to one reserved for members of the fire department and their families. The first published catalog dates back to 1874, when the fire department turned over its collection for the formation of a free public library. In 1882 the state permitted the Fire District to form a free library association open to all local citizens at the fire house on Cross Street. Joseph W. Freeman was the city’s first librarian.
When Stephen L. Adams, a public-spirited citizen and a member of the school committee, passed away he left a bequest to provide for the erection and maintenance of a library building. The building was designed by the Boston architectural firm of McLean and Wright. Work on the Greek Revival structure started in 1908; the Library’s new home was opened to the public on May 2, 1910 To this day, the facility is owned and maintained by the Adams Memorial Trust, aided immeasurably with the help of a bequest from the estate of Susan Flagg in the name of her forebear Lysander.
The lower level of the library was once used by the Sullivan Ballou Post No. 3, Grand Army of the Republic as a meeting place. The room was also used by the James Stanton Post No. 5, American Legion as a meeting place for World War I Veterans until their building was erected in the 1930’s.
Throughout the 20th century, the Library evolved in ways that mirrored changes to the City of Central Falls. In 1973, the City used a bequest of General Lysander Flagg (a Civil War Quartermaster and, later, General) to refurbish the Library’s lower level into a Children’s Room. 1984,saw the completion of the rear addition to the Library that included a small auditorium as well as an elevator to provide improved access for physically challenged patrons.
In 1990, Ken Burns’ PBS Civil War documentary first aired. At the end of the first segment, parts of Major Sullivan Ballou’s love letter to his wife, Sarah, was read. It was later discovered that the material from the Ballou Post was given to the Stanton Post for safekeeping and that material was returned to the library. In the Memorial Volume of the Post dated 1894 is a copy of Sullivan Ballou’s letter. The library has photocopied the letter along with photos of Sullivan and Sarah to use for fundraising.
On July 1, 2011, a municipal financial crisis resulted in the closing of the Library. This action prompted a group of spirited volunteers to re-open the facility a month later and continue to provide services to the public on a limited basis. The Library has since reorganized itself into a new and user-centered organization that hopes to serve the residents of Central Falls well into the 21st century and beyond.