SFL History

Structure

 

The Stewart Free Library is a two story brick structure with a clock tower and belfry. Built in 1898, the library building has been well cared for, and remains much as it was when constructed. There are high metal ceilings, hardwood floors, oak wainscoting, and oak woodwork throughout. The building was placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974.

 

The description included in the National Register of Historic Places is as follows:

Corinna. STEWART FREE LIBRARY, ME 11/43, 1895-1898, William H. Grimshaw, architect. Brick, 2.5 stories, Greek cross shape, hipped roof sections, interior chimneys; large gabled dormers, each with 3 windows; tall, slightly projecting center front square clock tower with octagonal bell spire; windows arranged in two and three under stone flat and segmental arched lintels, side entrance porch. Eclectic Victorian elements. Built by Minneapolis millionaire Levi M. Stewart, son of a Corinna minister, as a memorial to his parents. Municipal.

 

The first floor houses the Stewart Free Library, the Corinna Town Office, the Levi Stewart Private Library, the main hallways, stairways to the second floor, restrooms, a custodial closet, and three small storage closets. The second floor houses an auditorium (57 x 64 feet), with mobile seating for about 250, an elevated, raked, theatrical state (47 x 30 feet), and four stage dressing rooms (6 x 8 feet). The full basement is dry and used for mechanical services and storage. The attic has a wood floor, is used for storage, and provides access to the clock tower and the clock mechanism.

 

Historical Information

 

Levi M. Stewart, a prosperous Minneapolis lawyer who was born and raised in Corinna, built the structure in 1898 as a memorial to his parents, and to provide the residents of Corinna with a public library. He bequeathed a sum of money to the town for maintenance of the building. His portrait hangs just inside the front door. The Stewart Free Library has been housed there since it opened in October of 1898, with 3000 volumes selected and donated by Mr. Stewart. In 1916, a local historian called it one of the finest public buildings in Maine.

 

Upon his death in May of 1910, Mr. Stewart’s private book collection, numbering more than 6000 volumes, was placed in the building. Among the volumes are extensive holdings on the Civil War, President Lincoln, and Napoleon. In 1964, the private library room was redecorated by the Corinna Literary Club in a prize winning Sears and Roebuck Community Project.

 

The second floor was, at the time, a fully equipped theatre and auditorium with wooden moveable seating for about 300. The stage was fitted with curtains and several rolled canvas backdrops that could be raised and lowered. The backdrops were painted with a number of country and city scenes. Most of the rolled backdrops and the rope/pulley mechanism have been preserved and are in use today.

 

The auditorium has been used for many cultural and civic events including: town meetings, dances, Fireman's Balls, Junior Proms, high school graduations, and other gatherings. Theatrical productions such as prize speaking contests and minstrel shows were once popular here. Many plays and variety shows have been produced over the years. For several years, the auditorium was used as a basketball court for town teams, high school and junior high school programs.

 

The clock in the tower, original to the building, has four faces and rings the bell in the belfry on the hour. It was manufactured by the E. Howard Watch and Clock Company of Boston. In 2000, the clock was restored and completely reconditioned.

 

Written by: Ken Dow, and the Levi Stewart Community Theater Group