The Story of the HPL
The Hopewell Public Library has a busy history in Hopewell Borough, starting in 1914 as the Hopewell Free Public Library. The saga includes four locations, multiple purchases of the same building, and combining and splitting with the Hopewell Museum.
The saga is briefly summarized and illustrated here. See the linked PDF document for more gory historical details, as currently known. Please contact us if you have more information to contribute through HopewellHistoryProject.org.
Library Week 1921 - Help Hopewell Honor Her Heroes
In May 1921 the Hopewell Free Public Library, at that time housed in Fireman’s Hall on Seminary Ave., organized its first Library Week to raise funds for a new larger building that could accommodate its growing collection of reading material, plus museum space for the increasing displays of historical antiquities donated to the Library. A week-long celebration, "Help Hopewell Honor Her Heroes," was planned.
Many townspeople took part in two performances at Columbia Hall (at the Hopewell Theater site) in "The Masque Of Hopewell - an Historical Pageant." The pageant covered Hopewell history, starting with native tribes and the Stout family, and then stepping through glimpses of Isaac Eaton, Revolutionary call to arms, John Hart, George Washington, Lafayette, and the Frog War. The presentation had a tableau of Civil War and WW II veterans, and John Robinson who came North via the Underground Railroad. It ended with an Appeal To Knowledge: "In books, ye talk with sages, and walk with kings."
Throughout the week the library was open to view the antique exhibits, with tea each afternoon at 4:00 pm. There was an information booth, an outdoor quilt and coverlet exhibition, a Colonial Supper, moving pictures (Daddy Long Legs!), bake sale, and Memorial Day Exercises that included a baseball game, refreshments, and evening festival and bazaar.
By July, the library Trustees reported that the Building Fund was up to $1080.55.
Libraries in Hopewell in 1800's and Early 1900's
There are several tantalizing references to libraries in Hopewell Borough before 1914, but not much is known of them.
"Hopewell Columbian Library Company" (1806)
The Hopewell Public Library has a framed document from 1806 in which the trustees of the [then existing] Hopewell Library Company changed the name to "Hopewell Columbian Library Company."
Mrs. Carter Library - Broad and Seminary (by 1887)
The 1887 Fowler map of Hopewell shows "Mrs. M. A. Carter, Library and Fancy Goods" in the building at the corner of East Broad Street and Seminary Avenue (15 East Broad, now the Hopewell Bistro - #15 on the 1887 Fowler map).
There are multiple references to "circulating libraries" around the area in the 1800's and into the 1900's. These apparently were state efforts to loan books to municipalities to reach lightly populated regions.
"Four years ago about 160 books were received from the Hopewell Circulating Library and this constitutes almost entirely the school library. ... When it is remembered that there is no library in town except the Sunday School libraries it will be seen what a great advantage a good school library will be to the children. - Miles D. Wagner, Principal" [Hopewell Herald, Sept. 11, 1901]
Hopewell Free Public Library Founded (1914)
The Roundabout Club led an effort and contributed funding to establish the Hopewell Free Public Library in 1914. The library was opened in March 1914 in the former harness shop of Joseph Harrison on West Broad Street at Mercer Street (64 West Broad, now a private home - #14 on the 1887 Fowler map).
"The library opened in the old Joe Harrison harness shop near Grange Hall on Mercer Street. The books were kept in the glass cases where Joe exhibited his finest harnesses." [Trenton Evening Times, c1949]
Hopewell Free Library Moves to Fireman's Hall (1915)
One year after opening, on March 15, 1915, the Hopewell Free Public Library moved to Fireman's Hall (15 Seminary Avenue). The library used the second floor. The building was being used by one of the multiple Hopewell fire companies before the local companies consolidated in Columbia Hall. During this time, it was also used by the borough as an election polling site. The library then became tax supported in 1917.
"In the spring of 1915 through the kindness of the Business Men's League and the fire department, the library was moved from Mercer street to its present quarters on Seminary avenue. The work was accomplished by little boys with their express wagons. [Hopewell Herald, Oct. 17, 1923]
Combined Library and Museum Moves to Stout House (1924-1925)
The Hopewell Free Public Library and Museum Funding and Building Association was incorporated in February 1922, separate from the library, to solicit funds for a combined library and museum. This resulted in extensive public discussion on the alternatives for housing the library's books and its growing collection of artifacts.
In October 1923, former mayor Hugh A. Smith published an open letter offering to sell his residence for the library / museum. The house, at 28 East Broad Street, was built as a residence for Randolph Stout in 1877. The museum and library took residence there in April 1924 and January 1925, respectively.
"Resolved - That the work of shelving and petitioning off has made the two rooms, on the first floor, west side of the building, at No. 28 East Broad street, private from the other rooms of the building, and amply adequate for Library purposes." [Trustees minutes, Jan. 17, 1925]
Hopewell Public Library Moves to Current Home (1965)
On Saturday, February 13, 1965 the Hopewell Public Library moved to its current location at 13 East Broad Street. The two story, brick structure was originally built in 1890 as the first Hopewell National Bank. After the National Bank moved to a new building at the corner of East Broad Street and Greenwood Avenue in the 1920's (now Dana), the library building was then occupied by the post office and the telephone company.
'Back in 1965, the library was moving to 13 E. Broad St. and a February 18 story related that "the dream of many years came true in Hopewell last Saturday when the Free Public Library opened the door of its new headquarters."' [Hopewell Valley News, April 20, 1989]
See the linked PDF document for more gory historical details, as currently known: