North Syracuse Library
Posted on August 27, 2020
HISTORY MYSTERY: North Syracuse Library
In 1971, we moved to a wonderful house just eight properties west of this old house made into the North Syracuse Library on Route 11 in North Syracuse. I was a constant visitor because I was attending Syracuse University part time while working full time. The memories are still very clear in my mind. Of course, many memories are shared with the two elderly librarians. It was on the corner of Main Street and Palmer Drive. The original building (right hand side) was built in the 1870’s as a farmstead with many out buildings for their farming activities.
It was deeded to the library by Anna Marsh Reed, a retired spinster school teacher. It had been her family home where in the past she had taught kindergarten in the front rooms. Formerly, she had lived in a large brick house on Palmer Drive. When she donated the library, she made several requests, which were written in the deed. She wanted to live upstairs; she wanted the library group to provide her with an indoor bathroom and supply the toilet paper. She also wanted an electrical outlet installed for a toaster. In addition, the deed stated she could pick fruit from the trees on the property (one librarian said one bushel) and the rest belonged to the library.
A not-so-fond memory by the librarians was of the uninvited guests. Holes in the foundation allowed cats and other animals easy access into the basement. And, a large hole in the floor behind the desk gave them a clear view of the dark dank basement below the floor and access to the library from the basement by the furry visitors. The cats were tolerated, but when the skunks arrived, “that was the last straw.” The smell clung to the librarians’ clothes. And, on my visits to pick up books for the essays and final papers I was writing, the smell was very strong. The librarians would watch the family of skunks “go out to dinner” at dusk. They would prance across the street, single file, to the back of Oscar’s Restaurant and rummage through the garbage helping themselves to scraps. I told the librarians that they must have come to my house for dessert because they would get under the front porch and leave their aroma for us! The last year of the old library, the stairs were so bad, we weren’t allowed upstairs to use the bathroom. So the librarians had to schedule trips home and so did I!
The new library is the building on the left behind the old one on the right. It was built in 1976. The photo was taken just before the old building was torn down. But before that day, Jill Reichel, one of the librarians, asked me and my husband if we would like any of the old books that were getting scrapped. Of course we said yes not realizing how many they meant. I can’t tolerated any destruction of books and we were both avid readers. Not only the books but we dragged home several of the old book shelves. They are now in our old farm house! I give that old library and the wonderful librarians a lot of credit for my graduating from Syracuse University with honors. I would call them for unknown technical books and they would borrow them from libraries not only in the US but from Europe.
As they were going to raze the old building, the contractors started taking down one corner and all four sides fell down. They did this early in the morning so that the librarians wouldn’t be around, knowing that they would feel bad. The new library was made possible through donations, volunteers, and the support of the school district, the towns of Clay, Cicero and village of North Syracuse. The Gifford Fund provided funding for furniture and the Friends of the Library supplied new shelves and books.
Many people and organizations helped the old North Syracuse Library survive for 70 years. Jill Reichel gave credit to Anna Marsh Reed for her commitment to children and the community. Before she was involved the library consisted of a few books tucked in a tiny corner of the general store. The one relic of high importance saved from the old library was the little red table and chairs, made in the 1800’s that Anna used when she taught kindergarten.
Dorothy Heller, Historian
August 27th, 2020
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