Exerts from Books and Money,
written by Albion Historian Neil Johnson
*Copies of this book are available at the Main Floor Circulation Desk
If you have ever been to Swan Library you'd know immediately walking-in this used to be a home. Yes, indeed this building was the former Burrows' Mansion. The following is a brief description of the founding of Swan Library 1890-1900.
...."The codicil went on to direct the executors to erect the building as soon as possible after his death; to state that if the county provided a lot, the library would be for the whole county, otherwise for Albion only; and that the executors should incorporate "The Swan Memorial Library Association" and turn over the building and remaining money to the association within five years of Swan's death.
Burrows Mansion Circa 1897, before becoming Swan Library, March 1900
-Still in the original location
On April 2, 1895, Swan added a second codicil to his will, stating that intended to build the library in his lifetime is his health permitted. If he died before he built the library or before it was completed, his executors should complete it as in the first codicil.
Portrait of Mr. William Gere Swan circa 1893
William and Emma Swan began looking at libraries at home and abroad, planning their gift to Albion. However, they had not begun the library when William died on November 10, 1896. The executors of the will, Emma Swan (1836 - 1904) and Judge Isaac Signor (1842 - 1935), now began the task of establishing the building, obtaining a charter, and hiring a librarian. These two executors would directly influence the library for the next thirty-nine years and their decisions still affect the library today.
Photo of William Gere Swan's former residence, located on the
SE corner of Rt. 31 and 98, where Rite Aid now stands.
Evidently when the executors began to look for a spot to build their library, they found that $35,000 was not much to buy a lot, erect a building, and buy equipment and books, especially when George Pullman's $65,000 church dominated Court House Square. Deciding that they could not build a library building, the executors bought the Roswell S. Burrows mansion, built in 1854 on the northwest corner of the Court House Square, for $6,000. The Burrows mansion seemed to be a good choice: it was on the Court House Square between the primary school in Central Hall and the high school on West Academy Street, and seemed huge in comparison to the two rooms occupied by the Albion free Town and Albion Public Libraries. This mansion also had special meaning; Burrows had been the richest man in Albion, he had been William Swan's employer as the majority stockholder in the Suspension Bridge, and he had been a staunch Baptist.
Swan Library, still in it's original location, as it looked over 100 years ago.
The plans for the change from a mansion to a library were made by architect J. Mills Platt of Rochester. In the first two weeks of April, 1899, local contractor Ozro Bates removed the addition on the rear and tore out the interior partitions in the mansion to give the contractors a clearer idea of what would be necessary for the conversion. Construction started in late spring under contractor George P. Harris.
The Burrows mansion was in a restrained Greek Revival Style. There were simple double pilasters at the corners and in the center of the east and south sides. The bases of the central pilasters were supported by wide porches. Coupled Doric columns supported porticoes with flat roofs and solid balustrades that matched the balustrade on the roof. There was a simple entablature with five small windows in the frieze on the front. The windows were six over six and all had shutters.
....The interior was complete by January, 1900, and was lavishly described by the Orleans Republican. "The reading room runs the length of the building on the north side. It is finished in oak, with two alcove bridges supported by columns to break the space. Two cases for reference books are provided. The librarian's desk faces this room, while a window opens into the hall on her right for receiving and giving out books without disturbing readers. A door at her left communicates with the library. The cases are metallic, olive green, arranged both around the walls and in back to to back stands. The trustees think the present housing will accommodate 14,000 volumes.
Books and Money, by Neil Johnson
If you would like to continue reading Books and Money, by Albion Village Historian, Neil Johnson, please visit the library, copies are also available for purchase!
Lunch and a history lesson, led by Neil Johnson
If you are interested in learning more about Swan Library and local Albion history, check out our new series "Take a Bite Out of History". Bring your lunch once a month at 12:15pm to the library and engage in a half-hour history lesson taught by Neil Johnson. Please see the Events page for more information regarding topics for that month. Please register for this program each month by calling 589.4246 or stop into the library and register at the main floor circulation desk.
Additional Historic Photos