New England has the proud distinction of being the birthplace of free public libraries. The Castine Social Library, a private social reading club, was organized in 1801 before public libraries were the norm. Maine followed the examples of New Hampshire and Massachusetts and passed legislation to fund public libraries in 1854.
The Castine Town Library became the first municipal public library established in the state in 1855. Throughout the 19th century, the library was housed in several buildings, including Emerson Hall. Castine philanthropist and ship chandler George Witherle, a strong proponent of a permanent community library, purchased the former site of the county court house shortly before his death in 1906. His widow Mary later bequeathed the funds to construct a “fireproof” library building. The Beaux Arts style and granite construction were chosen in part to honor her wishes.
The Witherle Memorial Library officially opened its doors in 1913. In 2012, the library underwent a major renovation that included an expanded children’s room. Today there are more than 1400 library members and 14,000 titles in the collection.
For more information, please visit the Witherle Memorial Library website: http://www.witherle.lib.me.us/