The Little Falls Public Library
Researched by Michael Poerio, narrated by Megan Good, Cooperstown Museum Studies Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, Class of 2022.
The Little Falls Public Library has been serving the community for over two-hundred years.
Originally opened in 1814, the library moved between several locations throughout Little Falls before finally settling in the donated house of Judge Rollin Hulbert Smith in 1912, where it remains today at 10 Waverly Place. Smith served as a Judge of Herkimer County from 1883 to 1889 and was also the Vice President of the Herkimer County National Bank in 1899. Smith and his wife, Nellie Bramer Smith, had inherited the house from Nellie’s father, Franklin Bramer, who built it in 1878. He was the inventor of the “Young Warrior Mower” and owner of the Warrior Mower Company. In fact, in 1878 the first telephone in Little Falls ran on a private line between Bramer’s house and his Warrior Mower Company office. Could this building be the site of Little Falls’ first telephone call?
Judge Smith bequeathed his home to the City of Little Falls in 1910 specifically to become the site of the City’s public library.
In fact, he donated a tremendous amount of money to be used for maintaining the library as well as his own personal books and collections of art and china. Smith’s condition to the City was that the house’s front parlor and reading room be unaltered. Indeed, gas lamps still hang in these rooms to this day. The architecture is based in the second empire style of France, with its signature Mansard roof composed of sloping exterior walls designed to appear as a roof. Additionally, the third-floor exterior walls are decorated with roof shingles. The front door holds antique glass and the porch below that entrance is constructed of quartz and granite. Inside, the oak staircase leading to the second floor is adorned with decorative carvings, as are the window shutters and oak around the reading room’s fireplace. Many of the ornate windows are arched as well, another trait of the Second Empire style, and stained-glass windows decorate the building. The staff of the library gladly gives tours of the building’s incredible interior.
Inside the library are many collections generously donated throughout the years.
The library houses a collection of thirty-six trays of Little Falls Diamonds , donated by the family of Dr. John Hurley. These “diamonds” are rock crystals comprised of quartz minerals that bear a striking resemblance to actual diamonds. There is also a collection of antique China figurines donated by Carrie Cooper and a collection of butterflies and moths donated by George J. Cannon’s daughter, Lillian, in 1927. All these collections are displayed publicly on the library’s first floor.
While the library contains a trove of Little Falls history and is itself a place of historical importance, the library has undergone many renovations which have enabled it to continue serving its visitors in the modern age. In 1982 a two-story addition was built to carefully match the rest of the building’s exterior design and included a new library entrance, new space for books, a community room for events and programing, and an elevator. In 2007, the library purchased computers and other equipment and added a “teen room” for teenagers to read books and magazines. In 2018 a grant from New York state allowed for repairs to the library’s stairs and sidewalks. In 2020, the children of Tom and Theresa Carrig donated the funds for the complete renovation of the new Theresa Carrig Children’s Center.
The story of the Little Falls Public Library is a story of support and donations, with the building itself being the longest enduring example of the Little Falls community’s generosity. Today, the Little Falls Public Library continues to be a vital and cherished part of the Little Falls community.