The Buck Memorial Library is the public library of Bucksport, Maine. It is located at 47 Main Street in the center of town in an architecturally distinguished Gothic Revival stone structure designed by George A. Clough and built in 1887. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
An early account of the affairs of Bucksport (then called Buckstown) reads “as far back as 1806 certain of the leading men of the town resolved to purchase a library.” Their object was thus expressed, “To excite a fondness for books, to afford the most rational and profitable amusement, to prevent idleness and immorality, and to promote the diffusion of useful knowledge, piety and virtue at an expense which small pecuniary abilities can afford, we are induced to associate for the above purpose.”
In a short time a liberal sum amounting to $95.50 was subscribed for this object and the act of incorporation was passed March 8, 1806. The books were purchased from Thomas Whipple of Boston, Massachusetts, by a specially appointed committee, and included several sets of sermons, other books on religion and on philosophy, a few histories, books on “education of females” and of children, sacred dramas but only one or two books of fiction; it being the prevailing idea of those times that the reading of novels was a waste of time, and in the opinion of many, was slightly immoral.
Funds for the maintenance of the library were obtained by an annual assessment of fifty cents on each share or right, “to be used (according to the records), for the purpose of purchasing new books and otherwise improving the library.”
Although named “Buckstown Social Library” when instituted, the library was designated in the record books from 1814-1817 as “The 1st Social Library” presumably to distinguish it from another library which existed at that time in connection with the Washington “B” society, and known as the Second Social Library (housed in the residence of Samuel Pond, on site of the present bank building). Later, due to the change of town’s name from Buckstown to Bucksport (1817), the name of Bucksport Social Library was adopted. Incidentally, the Second Social Library had been discontinued by this time and some of its books had been purchased by the Bucksport Social Library.
For more than sixty years of its efficient service this library led a nomad’s life, being housed first in one store on Main Street then in another, until it finally found a permanent abiding-place in a small building located in a lane leading off the north side of Main Street, at about a quarter of the distance between Central and Elm Streets. Here the library remained until 1887.
By the late 1880’s a larger building was needed to accommodate the approximately 1500 volumes belonging to the Bucksport Social Library.
Richard Pike Buck, a successful New York businessman, who was a grandson of Colonel Jonathan Buck, founder of Bucksport, had many times expressed a great interest in establishing a library building in his native town and endowing it; but his death occurred before he had carried out his plans, and no provision was made in his will relative to them. His wife, Mrs. Charlotte Spofford Buck, and daughter, Miss Emmlinine Buck, understanding well the desires and wishes of Mr. Buck undertook to carry them out—the result being the erection of the present attractive Buck Memorial Library building at an approximate cost of $20,000.
This building, 60 feet by 20 feet, was constructed of Blue Hill granite, lined with brick. It was especially appropriate for a Buck memorial that the interior wood finish which was of heart pine, was supplied from mills in South Carolina belonging to descendants of Bucksport’s founder, and was particularly selected for the beauty of grain. The stone walls enclosed an entrance hall or lobby with an anteroom in the rear. The main or “charging room” occupied the west wing of the building, and a well-lighted reading room was on the east side. Each of these rooms was fitted with an open fireplace. Below, a spacious basement housed the furnace. The second floor provided ample storage space, which later was equipped with shelves.
On October 17, 1887 this building with its appurtenances was deeded to the following named trustees, “Sewall B. Swazey, Oscar P. Cunningham, Nahum T. Hill, Parker Spofford, Alfred L. Skinner, George R. Blodget, Richard B. Stover, to have and to hold the same for the use of the people of Bucksport. The language of the deed stated that the Trustees “shall be required to carry on the Library and Reading Room in a manner which they shall deem for the best interests of the community.”
The library was supported, and still is, by bequests; the income of bequests; and by monetary gifts from interested individuals, supplemented by annual appropriations from the Towns of Bucksport, Orland and Verona Island.