New Britain City Journal

New Britain's Weekly Online Newspaper


A Grand Event for our Grand Historic Buildings


Literary Libations, Vol. V was a tremendous success with a great attendance of supporters last Friday. It was an evening of good music, food and interesting conversations with 15 local authors on the beautiful campus of CCSU. Many of the authors have city connections – Tre Brown, a poet from New Britain, Christopher Brian Shea, a NBPD detective, Chuck Radda, NB native and former Plainville teacher, Dan Blanchard, NBHS teacher and Herald columnist, and Tom Hazuka, CCSU English professor.

This past week, one of the authors, Okey Ndibe, made a surprise visit to our Senior Center Book Group, as we were discussing one of his books. Kudos to the committee of board members who planned such a successful event, particularly Mary Ann Varga, Ann Anderson and Vira Riley. Funds raised will be used for the repair of the exterior terra cotta of the original library building on the corner of West Main and High Street and the repair of the slate roof of the Hawley Building. Both of these buildings have wonderful histories. They were possible because of generous benefactors, Cornelius B. Erwin and Benjamin Hawley, who left bequests for the buildings to be built. Before these buildings we were located at 3 previous locations in rooms at two different locations on Main St. and at the Russwin building, originally the Russwin Hotel and now City Hall.

When I was growing up, the main library and Children’s Library were two separate buildings. You walked from one building to the other across the lawn. Since starting this endeavor to raise funds for the work, many people have shared their fond memories of these buildings – the glass floors and metal stairs of the old book stacks of the adult section, the children’s librarian whose stern look reminded you that you had to be quiet in the library and the dumb waiter that carried books from floor to floor. Some remembered a time when the book stacks were not open to the public.

The next time you visit the library take a minute and look at the beautiful architectural details of both of these beautiful, historic: fluted columns, arched windows with decorative keystones, scallop shell moldings, prominent quill pen carvings and lion head gargoyles. “Library of the New Britain Institute” is inscribed above the front door. The old entry of the Children’s library is watched over by the figure of a young child holding a shield with the insignia of the Institute – a lamp and book engraved on it. Dedicated to the Welfare and Happiness of Children is inscribed below the figure and on each side of the door are cherub faces holding a book.

These building are truly works of art to be admired and appreciated. Thank you to everyone that supported our event, guests and sponsors, and for the generous donations we are receiving as we continue to raise funding for this major project.