History of the Library

HISTORY OF THE BENSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY (Created and Updated by Jessica Hilburn – 6/10/17)

  • Byron Benson (1832-1888) was the founder and President of Tidewater Pipe Company (1878).
  • Benson created a 6-inch pipe that covered the greatest distances yet for oil transport
  • Library was proposed January 6, 1902 by Robert D., William S., and Bessie B. Emerson Benson in memory of their father, Byron, and mother, Minerva. (Titusville Herald, 1/8/1902)
  • The children wanted to honor their late parents with a free public library
  • Cost of building and books to be no less than $25,000 – ended up being $35,000
  • Decision to accept the library gift debated publicly and women led the charge to accept it for the education of Titusville youth (Titusville Herald, June 28, 1902)
  • Better deal than Carnegie libraries (Oil City, Bradford, etc.) because Bensons were paying the lion’s share of the money
  • Would include fiction – “Mrs. Benton is of the opinion that fiction is not so reprehensible as often believed.” — “Books not founded upon truth are often the best means of imparting a truth.”
  • Basement (smoking room) was to be for men only
  • Many women expressed that they pay taxes, work jobs and support the library – only wish that one day women can vote and have representation for their taxation
  • Library vote took places on June 30, 1902 and was overwhelmingly accepted
  • 865 voted for library, 234 voted against (Titusville Herald, July 1, 1902)
  • Library formally opened at 7:00pm on February 7, 1904 (Titusville Herald, February 8, 1904)
  • “An enthusiastic gathering”
  • Library designed by architects Jackson & Rosencrans of New York
  • James A. Nixon of Titusville was the lead contractor
  • Decorating and frescoing by Olmstead Art & Decorative Company
  • Plumbing by William Moran
  • Electric by S.E. Robison
  • Stonework by W.J. Patterson
  • Woodwork by Daniel F. Reuting
  • On day of opening housed 4,000 books and had budget for $3,000-worth more
  • Original Board Members: William T. Scheide (died 1907), E.T. Roberts, Samuel Grumbine (whose daughter Lucy became second Benson Librarian), J.L. Emerson, John Fertig, J.C. McKinney (Titusville Herald, November 14, 1907)
  • Maintenance Over the Years (Case Statement, Section I, p. 1-3 BML Expansion Project)
    • 1904-1940 – no maintenance
    • 1954 – steam cleaned and sandblasted exterior
    • 1940s – rearranging interior
    • 1958 – completely painted interior
    • 1971 – ceiling repair and new overhead lights

We’ve also collected some of our history here at the Benson Memorial Library on Pinterest. Click on the image below to see the Benson Memorial Library History Scrapbook