In the winter of 1891, David Wells Plumb, a successful Shelton businessman, chaired a meeting of city residents who voted to establish a public library. The residents raised nearly $2,000 at that meeting, and in October 1892 they voted to appropriate a three-quarter-mill tax toward the library’s support. They also appointed six people as Library Directors, with Plumb serving as Library President. About 1,000 books were bought and rooms were rented on the second floor of the Pierpont building at the corner of Howe Avenue and White Street. Although the rooms served the purpose, Plumb felt the library should have its own building and began making plans to secure some centrally located land toward that goal. Before his plans could be realized, Plumb died.
Plumb’s death was very sudden. There was no provision made for the building in his will. Plumb’s brother, Horace, a Bridgeport businessman, received the majority of the estate. In a beautiful act of generosity, he turned over money for the building to the city. Plumb’s widow, Louise, donated property at Wooster Street, adjacent to their family home. Mrs. Plumb had just as much enthusiasm for the project as her husband. It is for that reason that the project was a success. Charles Beardsley, Jr. of Bridgeport was chosen as the architect and the Beardsley Company of Huntington was named contractor for the project. The brownstone library building, which is considered to be an outstanding example of Romanesque architecture, was completed in 1895.
Just ten years after it was completed, the Library Board felt that the new building was not big enough. They began to make plans for an addition. Two referendums were lost between then and March of 1973, when voters approved a $500,000 addition to the structure. The addition was completed in 1974. At the time of the third referendum, the library, which was meant to hold 10,000 books, was holding 55,609 books. The new section would have room for 40,000 books, a periodicals section, a circulation desk, and workrooms on the first floor. The lower floor has the children’s library, a meeting room, storage, and restrooms. The original building is currently being used as a reading room. At the end of 1991, the Huntington Branch Library opened at the Shelton Community Center. Today, the Library System holds over 190,000 items. Over the years there have been six City Librarians: R.P. Kimberly, 1892-1903, Helen Beard, 1903-1909, Jessamine Ward, 1909-1949, Christine Mills, 1949-1966, Doris Buchheit, 1966-2000, and C. Elspeth Lydon, 2000-present.