Library History


view of library entrance from side

  • 1840 - Employees of Cheney Brothers hire a book reader to read aloud to them while they work.
  • 1850 - Employees petition for a library. Request granted. Collection housed first in Cheney Brothers office then in basement of Cheney Hall. This is nucleus for South Manchester Free Public Library.
  • 1871 - Manchester Library Association formed. Members pay one dollar. South Manchester Free Public Library formed.
  • 1880-1913 - Library housed on Wells Street. Collection made available to public.
  • 1895 - A Loan Library was started "over North" by the Circle of the King's Daughters. Library housed in the Patten & Brown building.
  • 1898 - McCormick house on North Main Street becomes home of North Manchester Library.
  • 1913 - Fire destroys the South Manchester Free Public Library quarters on Wells Street. Library moves to the Eldridge house on Main Street.
  • 1914 - North Manchester Library moves into a large room at Robertson School.
  • 1921 - A branch library opens at the West Side Recreation building.
  • 1923 - South Manchester Free Public Library's books and equipment are given to the Ninth School District by Cheney Brothers.
  • 1930 - Cheney Brothers sever all connections with the library and donate a $50,000 trust fund for a new building.
  • 1930-32 South Manchester Free Public Library was maintained by the Ninth School District.
  • 1932 - South Manchester Free Public Library moves into the Recreation Building in Educational Square, moving out of the Eldridge House.
  • 1932 - Whiton Memorial Library "over North" is dedicated. The new library building for the North Manchester Library is made possible by funds donated by Doctor and Mrs. Francis Whiton. In 1934 the $24,900 remaining from donation is invested.
  • 1935 - Ninth School District dissolved. The two libraries in town were consolidated. They operated under a joint Board of Directors but carried on as two individual institutions.
  • 1937 - South Manchester Free Public Library moves into a new building and is renamed Mary Cheney Library, located 'in Center Park' on Main Street. Money for the building is made possible from Cheney Brothers fund and Federal Public Works Administration funds.
  • 1952 - Long-time Mary Cheney Head Librarian Miss Jessamine Smith retires. Miss Anna Caroline French appointed Head Librarian. At the same time, Mary Cheney Library and Whiton Memorial Library are 'coordinated.' Annual circulation (lending) of materials is approximately 150,000 items.
  • 1962 - Mary Cheney Library has two new wings (Children's and Reference) and additional stack space added, along with other interior improvements made.
  • 1973 - Bookmobile service in Manchester began on an experimental basis. The Connecticut State Library made available to the Manchester Public Library one of the three bookmobiles owned by the State.
  • 1974 - West Side Rec. Branch closed; average daily patron attendance had dropped to only 12 people.
  • 1988 - Library begins circulating materials with the "Circess" computer system operated by the Capitol Region Library Council, Windsor. Videocassettes added to collection c. 1987.
  • 1991 - Annual circulation of materials is 302,000 items, with 53,000 of that at Whiton. Long-time Library Director John Jackson retires 1990. Douglas McDonough appointed Library Director in 1991.
  • 1994 - Whiton building receives major infrastructure improvements including new furnace, asbestos removal, new phone system, electric improvements, all funded by 'trust fund' set up with money remaining after original construction of building.
  • 1995 - Old walk-on bookmobile traded to Police Dept. New bookmobile van bought.
  • 1998 - Howroyd Room created from basement storage space under the Children's Room at the Mary Cheney building. Taggart Fund for children's books receives substantial increase in 2000. Through reorganzation, additional Children's Librarians hired.
  • 2001 - Annual circulation of materials exceeds 800,000 items, with 200,000 of that at Whiton.
  • 2002 - Library receives Award of Excellence from: Connecticut State Library, Association of Conn. Library Boards, Friends of Conn. Libraries, and Conn. Library Association. Annual circulation as of June 30, 2003 reaches. 886,673. Parking Study, Space Planning, and Site Selection studies undertaken over the course of three years. Mary Cheney building is 26,135 sq. feet and is considered grossly undersized.
  • 2003 Library Board becomes Advisory through Charter Revision vote. State and local budget crisis results in reduction of hours at the Whiton Branch and the Mary Cheney main library, as well as reduction in book budget. Library bookmobile van reassigned to Public Works department.
  • 2006 Circulation of materials drops steadily, reaching 739,358. Late in year, Jarvis Book Fund donation received. New Town General Manager Scott Shanley hired.
  • 2007 Circulation of materials begins increasing again, with Manchester again becoming fourth highest-lending public library in the state as of June 30,2008.
  • 2009 Annual loaning of materials as of June 30, 2009 was 834,467 with 183,645 of that at Whiton. Architects retained to study possibility of expansion of current Mary Cheney Library building.

outside view main entrance library

Mary Cheney Library

Miss Mary Cheney

Mary Cheney, 1855 - 1934

Mary Cheney was the daughter of Frank and Susan Cushing Cheney. Frank was one of the original eight Cheney brothers and one of the founders of the silk business here in Manchester.

Frank and Susan had five children - Frank Jr., Mary, Katherine, Alice and Paul. Mary never married and she devoted her life to the town of Manchester. She lived most of her life in the large grey brick house that is now part of the South Methodist Church campus located on Main Street, Manchester.

Mary inherited a substantial estate from her parents, which allowed her time to contribute to various civic activities and organizations. She gave financial aid to families in time of hardship, contributed to young adults' scholarship funds, served on the school committee and the South Manchester Library board, gave Christmas gifts to kindergarten children and contributed both time and money to the new Memorial Hospital when it was built. She took up the hospital kitchen as her personal task and kept it supplied with equipment during the rest of her life.

Besides her various civic interests, Mary was an avid gardener. She maintained beautiful gardens around her home and kept them open to the public as if they were a town park.

Mary, as well as the rest of the Cheney family, was never one to make public the various philanthropic contributions made to Manchester. The Manchester Public Library was named after Mary Cheney. The plaque in the library's lobby reads -

"This library is honored by the name of Mary Cheney. A Friend of the distressed and a comforting listener. A public spirited citizen whose interest and help were given whole heartedly to all civic and cultural activities in Manchester particularly to the work of this library."

A portrait of Miss Cheney, painted on the occasion of her twenty-first birthday, can be found at the entrance to the Reference Room.

Cheney Paintings


"Great Oaks Memoirs of the Cheney Family" by Antoinette Cheney Crocker, 1977
"A New England Pattern, The History of Manchester, Connecticut" by William E. Buckley, 1973

Whiton Branch Library

100 North Main Street
Manchester, CT 06042


Dr. Francis Whiton Biography

Francis Whiton

Dr. Francis H. Whiton, 1846 - 1922

Dr. Francis H. Whiton was born in Mansfield, CT on May 16, 1846 and was the son of Chester and Philama (Brown) Whiton. He attended public schools for his early education and went on to Harvard Medical School and Dartmouth Medical College, graduating from Dartmouth in 1872. After graduation he worked in a private health institution and spent a year working in a New York hospital.

In May of 1870, Dr. Whiton married Mary Elizabeth Loomis, daughter of George M. Loomis of Portsmouth, NH. Mary Whiton's ancestors came to this country in 1636 and were in the Revolutionary War. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In December of 1873, Dr. Whiton came to Manchester to practice medicine and was a well-known physician in the north end of town. He was very active in his profession and was a member of both the Connecticut as well as the Hartford County Medical Societies. He was also a member of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Whiton was also active in local and state politics. He represented Manchester in the Connecticut Legislature from 1895 to 1899, and was a long-time trustee of the North End Library.

Upon Dr. Whiton's death in 1922 he left a part of his estate to the town of Manchester for the construction of a library. The building had to be within the limits of the Eighth District. Dr. Whiton's picture is hanging in the Manchester Public Library, Whiton Branch, 100 North Main Street.