OSWEGO, NY – The latest video on YouTube takes you inside the oldest public library in America still in its original building.
Enjoy our castle on the hill that has served Oswego for 157 years since opening its doors in 1857.
Simply type in youtu.be/OgwVMEYDOtE in any browser and hit play.
Gerrit Smith gave today’s equivalent of two million dollars in 1853 to build the Oswego City Library and stock it with books.
Ground was broken on June 8, 1855, with completion and usage by everyone, including women and children of former slaves, in the summer of 1857.
Initial hours were nightly from 7 to 10.
Built from native brick with a foundation including an 1745 memorial stone from the British fort that was first used in the original courthouse, completed in 1822, and then in the library – the Oswego Public Library is one of the few remaining examples of Norman Revival architecture, recreating medieval castle appearances.
Smith chose the first trustees who were all involved in, or sympathetic too, the abolitionist movement.
Smith himself took out southern newspaper ads extending an open invitation to any runaway slaves to seek refuge at his estate in Peterboro.
Many of those former slaves secretly made their way to Oswego and onto ships bound for Canada.
Library trustees John Edwards and Edwin Clarke were actively involved in the Underground Railroad moving these slaves to freedom.
One of the first patrons to use the new library, 11-year-old George Franklin Grant the son of a former slave, went on to become a faculty member at Harvard’s Dental School and pioneer the treatment of cleft palates.
Operating money came from the city of Oswego and public schools with the Oswego School District agreeing to buy books and pay the staff starting in the 1920s.
Beginning in 1999, the library became its own taxing district with seven elected trustees.
A massive restoration and building project began in 2004 and culminated in a modern 27,000 square feet facility including a community room with projector, interactive white board, large screen TV, and videoconferencing.