History

Jay-Niles Memorial Library and Memorial Hall

The Library

The Jay-Niles Memorial Library was a gift deeded to the Town of Jay on February 21st, 1918. The Niles children donated the library in honor of their parents Varanas and Mehitable Harris Niles. The Niles brothers gave the funds for the library to be built, but the dream of a town library was their sister’s, Eliza. When the Niles family donated the library to the town of Jay they simply said that they “hoped it would do folks some good.” The library is a large, elegant structure of brick with granite trimmings. The contractors that built the library were L.E. Bradstreet and Sons of Hallowell, Maine.

Groundbreaking for the library occurred in 1916. The building was completed in 1917, but did not open until 1918 when all the supplies and equipment had arrived. The library quickly became a nucleus of the community.

Memorial Hall

The library has a well-designed meeting hall upstairs, complete with hardwood floors and a stage. Over the years, several activities have taken place in the hall. Memorial Hall was intended to be a community gathering place. The hall was created in memory of the men in Jay who served in the Civil War. There are two plaques, one on each side of the stage, commemorating the Civil War Veterans.

The following are some examples of activities that have been held in Memorial Hall: Chautauquas* , Cantatas*, Memorial Day exercises, Community Christmas celebrations, meetings of the Jay Literary Club and Past-time Club, Teachers’ Club meetings, lectures, tree-lighting ceremonies, entertainers, Summer Reading Program events, socials, and plays.

Then and Now

When it was first built, the library housed about a thousand books; it now houses a collection of around 30,000 items including books, magazines, cds, videos, DVDs, audiobooks, pamphlets, and vertical files as well as 6 computers for internet access.

The estimated cost of constructing the original library structure was $5000. The cost for the addition in 1995 was roughly $500,000. When the addition was complete, the new sections brought more room for the growing collection, 2 additional bathrooms, a magazine closet, a boardroom/conference room, and greater accessibility for persons with disabilities. The addition was built by Diaz Corporation of Jay and designed by Bunker and Savage Architects of Augusta.

*Chautauquas were local assemblies that flourished in the late 19th and 20th centuries that provided popular education combined with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays.

*A cantata is a composition for one or more voices usually composing solos, duets, recitatives, and choruses and sung to instrumental accompaniment.