A Brief History of Cundy’s Harbor Library

By Lorene R. Kitchin as published in The Harpswellian, May 1981

In this short history I hope to trace the founding of the Cundy’s Harbor Library. Many changes have occurred, and there have been lapses in library service.

My first association with the library was in 1955, soon after we became year-round Harpswell residents, having been summer residents since 1946. At that time, with the new Community Hall being built, there was talk of space for a library, using a legacy that had been left for its establishment. It developed, however, that the small room allotted was not large enough for an expanding book collection or for tables and chairs.

In 1953, the books that had been in a library room in the old schoolhouse had to be moved to make room for more classroom space. Until space could be found, the books were moved to the upper floor of Holbrook’s Store, where they remained until 1960. According to the owner, Christine Miller, books were available during this period to anyone who cared to look for them. Meanwhile, interest in having a permanent home for the books continued.

In January, 1958, following the death of Hale Pulsifer, bequests in his memory were incorporated into a fund to be administered by the trustees of the memorial fund for the Cundy’s Harbor Library. The trustees present at the first meeting were: Margaret S. Pulsifer, president; Paul Burbank, vice-president; Lorene Kitchin, secretary; Jonathan C. Pulsifer, treasurer. Others at the meeting were: Marian W. Jordan, Lillian M. Smith, Burton W. Taylor and Margaret C. Watson. Others who later served as trustees were: Ethel Doughty, Elmer Drew, Christine Miller, Nathaniel Pulsifer, Richard Pulsifer, Alice Swallow, and Richard Taylor.

Plans immediately were begun to find a suitable site and building. Soon Richard Hatch agreed to sell, for half price, a small house on his land on the Cundy’s Harbor Road. Robert S. Watson and Marian W. Jordan deeded a parcel of land opposite the old schoolhouse for the site. The building was moved to its present foundation in October, 1959. Volunteer help was employed in constructing the foundation. After that, remodeling progressed rapidly.

In March, 1958, the library association met and elected the following officers: president, Susan Pulsifer; vice-president, Gareth Anderson; secretary, Guy E. Johnson, Jr.; and treasurer, Ruth Burbank. Margaret Pulsifer was at the meeting and reported on the business of the memorial fund. From that time on the two organizations worked to consolidate their efforts. The first meeting of the Cundy’s Harbor Library group in the new building was on May 5, 1960.

The grand opening of the building was June 30, 1960. A small cannon was fired to let the community know the library was open and functioning. It was a gala occasion with many interested patrons and visitors present.

During the first few months, interest was high and there were many gifts of books, including a new set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Because so many volumes were received, the book committee decided that, with limited shelf space, duplications and other books not suitable for a permanent collection would be sold at a discount, and donors were so advised. We have continued this practice and have found it a good source of income. Gradually, a collection of books by Maine authors and books about Maine have been collected and are an attractive feature of the reading room.

Library hours the first summer included one or two afternoons and evenings each week. During the school year one afternoon a week seemed adequate. Many volunteers worked at the desk when the library was open and aided in getting books catalogued and on the shelves in proper places. As our collection grew, shelving was a constant problem. We were grateful to Susan Houghton, long-time librarian at Orr’s Island, for her helpful suggestions and a gift of books.

Several organizations used the library as a meeting place and contributed to the upkeep. Among those were the cemetery association, the fisherman’s association, and the Sebascodegan Garden Club. Classes in arts and crafts and in embroidery were held during the summer months.

Susan Pulsifer organized a Saturday Children’s Reading Club, which was especially worthwhile as the schools had not yet built up their libraries. Teachers at Harpswell Islands School were given library cards. The first winter Rita Allard had a story hour for primary grades in the school building across the street.

Our book collection continued to grow as individual donations and memorial gifts were received. In 1961 a constant source of money was started with the establishment of the W. H. Stuart, Jr. Fund by Mrs. Stuart to be administered by Elizabeth S. Pratt as trustee.

Both the memorial fund and the library organizations were grieved by the death of Margaret S. Pulsifer in January, 1961, and resolved to carry on the work she had begun. She was truly an inspiration to us all.

At the annual meeting of the trustees of the memorial fund on February 13, 1970, it was voted to dissolve this organization inasmuch as it had accomplished its purpose. Accordingly, all funds, as well as land and building was deeded to the Cundy’s Harbor Library.

In 1979, interest in operating and maintaining the library seemed to be waning. Officers elected in 1961 were still serving. It was decided it was time for a change. Letters were sent out to interest others in helping keep the library open longer hours in summer and to arouse public interest in general. A morning coffee brought out many volunteers, and we were happy to have enough helpers sign up to staff the reading room five days a week. Shortly thereafter the following officers were elected: president, Alice Swallow; vice-president, Muriel Daughan; secretary, Barbara Pianka; and treasurer, Lee Doughty. I was elected historian.

Each summer since 1969, we have had an annual arts and crafts and food sale which has helped pay for fuel and building maintenance. On July twenty-third (1981) we will have our twenty-first annual sale, which we hope will be a special as well as profitable occasion.