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Southworth Library

24 West Main Street

Located in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, Dryden enjoys the benefits of being a rural community situated near the educational influences of Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins-Cortland Community College, and several SUNY campuses.

The Southworth Library is a part of the greater Finger Lakes Library System, and is managed by a local Board of Trustees. Our library is a historic focal point of the Dryden Community, supported by interest from the original 1883 endowment, municipal funding, gifts, and private donations.The Southworth Library Association has established, with the help of two generous bequests, a building fund in the amount of $25,000.A feasibility study was done in 2001 and is available for review at the library. In 2005, a generous bequest from the estate of Helen Little was given to the Southworth Library. This bequest will be used to support operations, perpetuation, and a possible Library building expansion project.

Southworth History

Jennie McGraw was born in Dryden in 1840. Her maternal grandfather was John Southworth, a wealthy landowner. Her father was John McGraw, who, working with Mr. Southworth in the mercantile and lumber trades, also became a millionaire. Mr. McGraw financed and helped build Cornell University's first library. In 1880, Jennie McGraw married Daniel Willard Fiske, a world renowned professor and Cornell's first librarian.Because of her love for Dryden, Jennie wanted the community to share the wealth inherited from her grandfather. Her lifelong involvement with education, travel, and all things cultural was evident in her will. A $30,000 trust fund was set up for the establishment of the Southworth Library Association, whose purpose was to build and maintain a library in Dryden as a lasting memoral to her mother and her grandfather. The Association was incorporated on April 22, 1883.

The library opened on September 25, 1884 in a temporary location on the corner of Main and South Streets. William Henry Miller, architect of Cornell University's Uris Library and many other buildings in and around Ithaca, was engaged to design a permanent building.On October 10, 1893, the cornerstone was laid at the present site. Built of Ohio sandstone at a cost of $15,000, the Southworth Library was completed in 1894. It contained two reading rooms and stack rooms with unique open grid flooring for maximum circulation of air. Space was allowed above the stacks for the future addition of another floor if and when that became desirable.About 2,000 books costing $2,500 were purchased to start the collection. The remainder of the fund was invested for the maintenance of the building and addition of books. Today, income from the endowment provides approximately 35% of the Library's annual operating expenses.