Thompson Free Library celebrates 125th anniversary with pavilion dedication

DOVER-FOXCROFT — Like many other organizations amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the Thompson Free Library moved a number of popular activities outside away from indoor spaces for health and safety purposes. A Maine State Library grant funded a large tent that was set behind the East Main Street building near River Street for concerts, author readings, and more, but in 2022 the tent collapsed.

Soon library officials began to look into a more permanent structure. Through the efforts of donors, area businesses, volunteers, and more a pavilion became a reality. The outdoor area was formally dedicated on the afternoon of Sept. 9, a date marking the exact 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Thompson Free Library in 1898.

With the dozens in attendance gathered under the pavilion roof and standing off to the side in the shade cast, Thompson Free Library Director of Library Services Jon Knepp – who began the position in late 2020 – said it has truly been an honor “to be part of an organization that has been a key part of the town for 125 years.”

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
CEREMONIAL OPENING — Thompson Free Library Director Jon Knepp cuts the ribbon during the dedication of the new pavilion located directly behind the Dover-Foxcroft library on the afternoon of Sept. 9. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the exact 125th anniversary of the Thompson Free Library dedication in 1898.

Knepp said the fact the library is celebrating its quasquicentennial of being an integral part of the community speaks well to the community because without it, the library would not be there. “I always say the library is only as good as the community that surrounds it and it adds to that community, he said.

The Thompson Free Library was given to the town of Dover (several decades before the merger with neighboring Foxcroft in 1922) by Dr. Elbridge Augustus Thompson in memory of his wife Lucia who passed away in 1896. A Civil War surgeon, Dr. Thompson (1828-1911) returned to Dover and practiced until retiring at age 75.

He paid for the library construction and set aside funds for the continued use. Dr. Thompson entrusted the care of the building to the town to “keep in good repair the building and pay all necessary running expenses.” An association and executive committee were created to govern the library and these groups still operate today.

Knepp said Dr. Thompson gifted $10,000 for the library and then $400 contributed annually for the rest of his life. The director said 125 years ago Dr. Thompson told the audience before him, “I am here today to perform one of the most pleasant acts of my life, namely to transfer to you the building that I have erected for a free library. My only wish is that it be as gratifying to you to receive as it is to my pleasure to transfer.”

Dr. Thompson wanted the residents of Foxcroft to be able to use the building as well, and this request was granted.

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
BANGOR SAVING BANK CONTRIBUTION — Sebastian Zepeda, left, of the Dover-Foxcroft Bangor Savings Bank branch presents a ceremonial donation check to Thompson Free Library Director Jon Knepp during the dedication of the outdoor pavilion on Sept. 9.

Knepp said the Thompson Free Library was built with a singular vision of the town and community coming together and “the pavilion is a great example of this.”

He said after having had the tent on the back lawn, “We had seen that this a great space to have events for the community.” Cooperation from the town, many businesses, and a great number of individuals made the pavilion a reality.

The structure was put together with contributions from Ware-Butler “All above the metal that you see was donated by Ware Butler,” Knepp said.

He said the Bangor Savings Bank Foundation gave $5,500 for the project, as did the GFWC/Miosac Club and a number of anonymous donors.

A crew from the building trades program at Mountain View Correctional Facility in Charleston did the construction in the spring and summer. “It’s a lot of labor and I don’t think we would have been able to afford it without them donating their labor and their time,” Knepp said.

He said Ashley Robinson and Andy Robinson of Dover True Value were part of the project from the start. “Ashley designed, redesigned, and redesigned and Andy made sure we had all the components when needed,” Knepp said.

Per a library Facebook June post Dover True Value staff, “Turned schematics into a part list, special orders, and eventually multiple deliveries to keep the crew busy! Without their help, the pavilion would probably still be a ‘good idea’ not the project it is today. And it definitely wouldn’t have gone as smoothly!”

Shane Mailloux of Northscape Earthworks Inc., Johnson Foundations, and Bishop Concrete were all thanked for working on the site. 

On Sept. 9, 1898 Anna Boynton Averill, who was known not just locally but had her works published nationally, read a poem on the occasion of the Thompson Free Library dedication. Exactly 125 years later “Dover-Foxcroft Poet Laureate” Tom Lyford read Averill’s words aloud before association and committee members and staff past and present came forward to stand behind Knepp as he cut the ceremonial ribbon.

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