The Hunt’s 125th Anniversary, Nellie Grace and Hunt Sisters Day

Nellie Grace 16 ecard

THE DAVID M. HUNT LIBRARY WILL CELEBRATE ITS 125TH BIRTHDAY WITH A FREE, FAMILY-FRIENDLY EVENT

The David M. Hunt Library in Falls Village will mark the 125th Anniversary of its founding on Saturday, September 17, from 4-6 pm. This free, family-friendly event will honor the founders of the library, Catherine and Wealthy Ann Hunt, with the restoration of their historical photographic portraits and the publication of a children’s book about the library, A Library for Nellie Grace. The event will feature refreshments, an exhibit, speakers and a reading of the book by author Betsy Howie. Illustrator Robin Roraback and photographer Patricia Decker will also be on hand to sign their book, which will be available for purchase. In addition, The Town of Canaan-Falls Village First Selectmen will present a proclamation of Hunt Sisters Day. For more information, visit the library, call 860-824-7424 or visit www.huntlibrary.org.

The David M. Hunt Library opened its doors on Saturday, September 12, 1891. At the time, Falls Village was similar to towns across the country in building libraries for the educational benefit of their communities. Libraries were mostly funded by private families, and often by women. Norfolk Library was opened in 1889 by Isabella Eldridge. Sharon’s Hotchkiss Library was opened by Maria Bissell Hotchkiss in 1893. Catherine and Wealthy Ann Hunt funded the opening of Falls Village’s library in 1891. The townspeople voted to name the library after the Hunt sisters’ brother, David Morgan Hunt, the iron industrialist and state senator who died on September 12, 1864.

In 2012, Elizabeth Tyburski, the library’s archivist and historical curator, brought attention to the fragile condition of the portraits of Catherine and Wealthy Ann Hunt. These monochromatic crayon enlargements, a form of photographic print enlargement enhanced with pencil, were originally produced in 1892 and 1893 and had become brittle, discolored, and cracked in various places.

The library’s board resolved to conserve these historical portraits, and board member Garth Kobal undertook to oversee the effort to raise the necessary funding. The preservation of the images was made possible by a generous donation from Falls Village residents Richard and Mary Lanier, whose Grassy Hill Farm looks up at the library’s Queen Anne Revival facade from across the street. The work was performed with great care by the Northeast Document
Conservation Center under the direction of Michael Lee in Andover, Massachusetts. Re-framing was done by library volunteer Sergei Fedorjaczenko.

At the September 17 celebration, the new portraits of Catherine and Wealthy Ann Hunt will be installed alongside their brother, David’s, oil portrait on the library’s main floor. To honor the occasion, The Selectmen of the Town of Canaan-Falls Village will present a proclamation of Hunt Sisters Day.

In thinking of other ways to celebrate the library and its tradition as a hub of the town’s community for 125 years, Mr. Kobal brought some ideas to the library’s executive director, Erica Joncyk. Ms. Joncyk thought a children’s book about the Sisters’ impact on the library and community was the best fit.

Author, playwright and Falls Village resident Betsy Howie, delivered a story about Nellie Grace, a young knee-high with a healthy appetite for reading who desperately wants to be big enough to get her own library card. Nellie’s quest for her card is complicated by the Hunt sisters’ portraits—whenever she sees them she runs away screaming in fright, right out of the library. The librarian, Miss Amelia, eventually calms Nellie’s fears by explaining how the Hunt Sisters founded the library that she enjoys today. Nellie also learns that Catherine and Wealthy Ann were like many other women of their day who founded schools, hospitals, museums, and libraries like the Hunt.

Salisbury resident and illustrator Robin Roraback brought the characters and townspeople to life with charming and gentle artwork. Lakeville resident and owner of Still Photo in Lime Rock, Patricia Decker, photographed scenes of the library’s exterior and interior. Former art director for Dutton Children’s Books and Falls Village resident Sara Reynolds, was the book’s art director and worked with all of the creative team to do the book’s layout. Ms. Reynolds was assisted by HVRHS sophomore and Falls Village resident Emelia Luz, who prepared digital files of Ms. Roraback’s illustrations. Ms. Tyburski and Mr. Kobal wrote an overview of the library’s history for the book’s end notes.

Betsy Howie will do a reading of A Library for Nellie Grace at the September 17 event and she and all of the creative team will be on hand to sign copies that will be available for purchase.

Prints of Robin Roraback’s original artwork from the book will be on exhibit through September 30 along with a display of library memorabilia gathered by Ms.Tyburski.

The book, A Library for Nellie Grace, was made possible through the support of an anonymous donor and The Town of Falls Village, The Canaan-Falls Village Historical Society, The Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut, The National Iron Bank, Skyhorse Publishing, Century Aggregates, The Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, Torrington Savings Bank, and Union Savings Bank. Complimentary copies of the book will be distributed to schools and libraries in the towns of Canaan-Falls Village, Cornwall, Goshen, Kent, Lakeville, Norfolk, North Canaan, Sharon, and Salisbury.

For images of the Hunt Sister’s portrait restoration process and Robin Roraback’s book illustrations, please contact garthkobal@comcast.net