Writing in her diary in 1850, Orinda Pratt recounts a meeting of a Reading Club to which she and several residents of Kent belonged. Meetings were held in members’ homes and the club was one of the regular social activities in town. In time, the club members’ books were assembled for use by other residents and in 1881, a list containing 103 book titles circulated from a single room at the house at 87 North Main Street. This was the first hint of a library in the town of Kent.
Initially, the books were maintained in the home of “Miss Kate” Hopson. As the years passed the need for a more formal library exceeded the hospitality of Miss Kate. On February 8, 1915 a committee of book lovers met in Bull’s Hall — which, fittingly, is now the House of Books.
Those attending the meeting passed a resolution that read:
In our judgment a free Public Library is needed in our town. We find that quite a number of people feel the need of it and want it. We believe the town ought to provide for a free public Library as it does for public schools but the conditions are such in this town that we recommend a Library Association be organized and incorporated to establish and maintain a free Public Library for the people of Kent.
And thus The Kent Free Public Library Association was formed, with Mary Bacon as its first president. Other officers included Frank Peet, Hugh Mosher, Mary A. Watson, the Rev. C.H. Perry, Gilbert A. Vincent, and Nelson M. Watson, committee chairmen.
The group was officially incorporated on July 8, 1915, and began the task of raising funds for a building. In 1916, subscriptions to the library were offered in order to raise funds to acquire the lot where the current library stands (for $1,500). After the land was acquired, the Library Association agreed to allow the Kent Fire Department to build a fire house on the back of the lot for a nominal annual rental fee.
In 1922, construction of the Kent Memorial Library began. Gov. Everett J. Lake was present at the laying of the cornerstone. The cost of construction was $9,000, raised by a fund raising effort, aided by a bequest of $5,000 from Mrs. Emily Judd Grainger. The building was completed and dedicated to the veterans of World War I on November 11, 1925. This building remains as the core of our home today, with the original fireplace and shelving still intact.
In 1958, the Kent Library Association constructed an addition that now houses our fiction stacks.
The building was further expanded in 1994 when the new children’s room was added.