One of the most attractive historical buildings in East Hampton Village is the East Hampton Free Library, founded in 1897. That year, the library was granted a charter by New York State and opened in one room of Clinton Hall on Main Street. That building still exists. The library building we all know and love today has a story. According to the library website, the Library moved to its present location at the corner of Main Street and Buell Lane in 1912. The land that is phenomenally valuable today was donated by Mary Lorenzo Woodhouse. The architect Aymar Embury designed the building, which was also donated by the Woodhouses. For architecture enthusiasts, it should be noted that the Library was designed in a neo-Elizabethan style since many residents of that time wanted East Hampton architecture to conform to that of a pre-seventeenth-century Kentish village, similar in looks to the one the original settlers had left behind. I, for one, am glad they did.
The library website also states that in 1930, Mary and Lorenzo Woodhouse added to their original gift by giving a new Board Room and connecting Cloister. That same year, Mary Gardiner Thompson and Jonathan T. Gardiner built the Gardiner Memorial Room to house the recently donated Pennypacker Long Island Collection. It was an astounding collection of papers containing deeds, pamphlets, maps, letters, and diaries and became the crown jewel of the Library. It is now referred to as the Long Island Collection.
I used the library to access the internet. There wasn’t always internet in every home and access to what it was first called, “The World-Wide Net.” Doing journalism centered around land-line phones and long drives to folks’ homes, businesses, or a coffee shop. It’s a lot different interviewing someone face to face than texting questions.
Then there is the composing of the article. Yes, I owned typewriters. Used them in college to write those term papers. Boy, do I remember using white-out, a lot. No auto/spell, grammar apps, or automatic spacing in those days. Not to mention changing the ink ribbons and centering the paper. Folks under 45 years old probably have never done that. However, I have done all of my thousands of articles on keyboards.
My 20-year east end writing career originally centered around two libraries: first, the Beautiful East Hampton Library and then the Montauk Library. I knew the hours, the staff, where the periodicals were kept, and how to use their old computers. It was a process.
Funny thing was originally (2002-2009), you only received a very limited time to use the Library internet, and at all hours there could be a waiting period. At that time, home internet was being developed, “plug-in phone” access was inconsistent, slow, and most of all, annoying. Computers would freeze for indefinite times around deadline, and yes, with print journalism, there are actual deadlines or the article won’t run that week. I remember the first weeks of actual online local news websites on the east end where corrections could be made post-publication. It was fun to be able to email the “link” of your article to friends. Yes, it was once all new.
However, at that time, those two Libraries, East Hampton Village, and Montauk, were also my de facto business offices. The great thing was the weekly feedback. Many of the Librarians read every piece because so often they had helped me find historical East Hampton facts to use. They pointed out spelling errors and bad grammar sections. Originally I had both an editor, then a fact-check and final spell-check editor, yet still, these wonderful librarians found errors.
At Dan’s Papers in those pre-website days, the final edit check was done late Tuesday night by an elderly guy (lol probably younger than I am now) whom I never met until I was writing for other websites. He sought me out in Southampton Village and introduced himself and said he missed editing my articles. Then he said he didn’t mind the errors because the material was always fascinating, and I was a really good storyteller.
I spent countless hours in those libraries, through snowstorms, heat waves, and pre-hurricane wind and rain. I watched them evolve, and yes, I still always buy one of their calendars. Today the Montauk is being renovated to increase its usefulness and beauty. I love the views from the upstairs window where in my time the computers were that I used. Libraries are like jewels, very wonderful when you use them. That is when they shine for you.