History

East Providence Town Hall
East Providence town hall once housed the Watchemoket Library prior to the Weaver Memorial Library being built in 1938. This building, built in 1889, was destroyed by a fire in 1976.
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Weaver Memorial Library

In 1871, Mrs. Rhoda Bassett, Mrs. Susan M. Weaver, and Ms. Eliza Pierce, among other women, formed the “Ladies Social Union” which formed the first library in the Watchemoket area. The first librarian, Sallie Weaver, was the daughter of Susan M. Weaver. The library moved between four different locations in Watchemoket Square until it finally ended up in the Munro and Fish building. The group, now the “Ladies Library Association,” had about 1,000 books as of 1876. At the start of the new year in 1877, a fire destroyed the building and with it all of the library materials. The library continued on this way until June of 1885, when the town council officially incorporated the library, changing from a subscription-based library into a free public lending library. Now the “Watchemoket Free Public Library Association,” the group moved back into the Chedal Building in 1888.

From 1888 to 1920, Jennie E. Briggs was the librarian. She was succeeded by her daughter Harriet M. Briggs from 1920 to 1951. In 1890, the library moved to an upper room in the newly built town hall. The library outgrew this space and in 1911 moved into the annex of the town hall, previously used by the police department. In 1938, the library moved to its current location at 41 Grove Avenue when the land was donated to the city in the will of Susan S. Anthony in memory of her mother Susan M. Weaver. Originally, the large barn building on the land was to be used as the library, but the trustees at the time decided a new building would be better suited to the library’s needs. The children’s room, opened in the basement of the building in 1963, was dedicated to Jennie E. Briggs in 1964. An addition to the building was completed in 1991 expanding the library significantly, which combined with the major renovations in 2009 and 2010 have resulted in the popular resource center the library is today.

Riverside Branch

Riverside Library was established in St. Mark’s Church, located on Turner Ave, in January of 1881. Prior to this, a small reading library existed, run out of several shops in Riverside Square. In 1884, the “Riverside Free Library Association” was incorporated, the first in the city to receive official funding. In 1894, the library moved into a new building constructed at the corner of Monroe and Lincoln Ave. The library stayed at this location for over 75 years before the building was deemed in too poor condition to continue serving as a library. In September of 1972, the collection was moved into the old Riverside Junior High School’s basement and the old building was torn down. Initially the move was intended to be temporary, but it took until 2005 to finalize and build the current building at 475 Bullocks Point Ave.

Fuller Creative Learning Center

Opened on October 21, 1926, the Anne Ide Fuller Library operated from the first floor of Arthur A. Fuller’s home, built in 1912, in the Brightridge neighborhood. The library was named after his late wife. The library was officially incorporated on April 10, 1929 as the Anne Ide Fuller-Bridghtridge Library. While in the original building, the librarian was given residence in the apartment upstairs from the library rather than a salary. Eventually, with city and state funding, a salary was included with the job. In 1969, Fuller’s current location, 260 Dover Ave, was chosen and in January of 1971 the new building, costing $100,000, was officially opened. On April 27, 2012, following budget issues, Fuller Branch Library closed to the public. In 2016, the building reopened as the Fuller Creative Learning Center, an extension of the East Providence Library System, inspiring curiosity through participatory learning and community engagement.

Rumford Branch (CLOSED)

On September 1, 1819, “The Ladies Reading and Library Society” was formed in one of the homes of a few Seekonk ladies. This was the first library in East Providence, at the time part of the town of Rehoboth, MA, then later Seekonk, MA. The library had a fee of 50 cents to join and 3 cents every fortnight. The library was kept in a small trunk traveling between the homes of the members. One of these homes, the Aldrich house, at the corner of Pleasant St. and Newman Ave., is still there today. Another place the library was located was in the house of Samuel Bridgham Jr, on Morra Way in Rumford.

Three of the founding members, Amanda Bishop (née Ide), Henrietta Carpenter, and Ann Carpenter (née Allen), were still alive in 1884 when the library was given a room in Town Hall, just north of the First Baptist Church. In 1905, a building was built next to town hall for the sole purpose of the library. The library changed names numerous times over the 107 years it occupied the building. It started as the Bridgham Memorial Library, then became East Providence Free Library, then finally was known as the Rumford Branch Library. After closing for good in April of 2012, the building is now a private residence.

Library Directors

Joyce May 2020 – 2022
Michael Carlozzi 2018 – 2020
Eileen Socha 2001 – 2018
Roberta A. E. Cairns 1979 – 2001
James W. Norman 1973 – 1979
Virginia B. Connor (Acting) 1971 – 1973
Richard W. Waters 1968 – 1971

 

Sources
Our Heritage:  A History of East Providence (p.77, 126-127, 146)
The History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, East Providence, Pawtucket & Barrington v4 (p. 97-99)
The Rumford Library Project
East Providence Post
The Providence Journal