Today, June 9th, 2012, the Everett C. Benton Library celebrated a milestone --the first anniversary of opening its doors as a private library. Thanks to many caring and hardworking volunteers, the Benton is a thriving neighborhood gathering place once again.
The distinctive stone building began life in 1892 as a chapel for the Belmont School for Boys, and was used as well by local churches in the early 20th century. Colonel Everett C. Benton purchased the lovely building after the school closed its doors. Colonel Benton passed away in 1924, and a few years later, his heirs donated the chapel to the town to be used as a branch public library. The dedication of the library was held eighty two years ago today, on June 9th, 1930.
A favorite of book enthusiasts of all ages, the Benton served generations of neighborhood families. As a child, I loved to read in the cozy building, and do homework on the tables there. Not too far from home or school, but far enough for a young girl to feel a bit of independence, the Benton was a perfect destination on a dreary winter's afternoon.
While I spent many years away from Belmont, I moved back to town 14 years ago (yes, you can go home again!), with one child in tow and another on the way. My children grew up with story hour at the Benton, and we made life long friends through that program. Sadly, money constraints curtailed branch library hours, and, despite one brief, successful attempt by neighbors and friends to keep it open a bit longer, the Benton branch library closed its doors in 2007.
After that, the Benton's friends and neighbors worked tirelessly to find a way to reopen the doors of the once-vibrant building. Meetings with town officials ensued, with ideas floated as to possible uses--but with the hope that it could be what it had been for 78 years--a library and meeting place. That became a reality a year ago, when the Everett C. Benton library opened its doors as a non-profit, independent library, run by volunteers and funded only by donations.
It has certainly been a wonderful year for the library, which, while only open Tuesday through Thursday, and occasional weekends, has become a vibrant meeting place and destination once again. It hosts popular story hours, a monthly book group, game and movie nights, children's plays, and showed a film sponsored by Belmont World Film. Volunteers have gone through the old books, as well as the many generous donations it has received, and adds new books weekly. I probably shouldn't admit this, but the Benton has an angel who purchases books from the New York Times best-sellers list--and you don't have to wait to read them!
Although my crazy free-lance cellist's life doesn't allow me to volunteer as often as I like, I really enjoy working there, as well as attending the monthly book group, and just hanging out. Hats off to the folks who made the Everett C. Benton library a wonderful destination again. May it continue for at least another 77 years!
For more information go to the Benton website: www.ecbentonlibrary.org/