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Woodward Memorial Library History

     On May 29, 1930 the doors of the Woodward Memorial Library opened to the community.  The public library was a gift to the people of LeRoy from the five children of Orator and Cora Woodward in memory of their parents. The library was the first free public library in the community; previous libraries were by subscription. Built on the site of the Staunton Conservatory and Arts Building of Ingham University (1837-1891), the library was designed in the English Colonial style using stones from the conservatory.

     The Woodward gift included the building and all equipment as well as money to purchase books and endowment funds to help support the library operation. Currently, the income from these funds helps maintain the building and purchase library materials.

     The Woodward family had been active business people in LeRoy, and a large part of their fortune came from the manufacture and marketing of Jell-O. The family's generosity aided many LeRoy institutions but perhaps none so much or for so long as the Woodward Memorial Library.

     The library was originally built with a small auditorium for community meetings, a museum area and kitchenette on the lower level, and the circulation desk, reference area, reading room, children's reading room and story hour room on the main floor. Gradually, the lower lever was changed to accommodate the children's room and workroom, and the elevator was added in 1988. The library is unusual in that it serves both the school and the community.

     An English (Copper) Beech grows in front of the Woodward Memorial Library.  The tree arrived in Le Roy in 1930.  When it was planted it was already 37 years old.  The Woodward children had the tree transplanted and brought into the community.  The tree became known as “The Library Tree.”  Former library director, the late Gerald Halligan, wrote a poem in honor of the tree.

THE CHILDREN'S TREE

How many young minds have grown and branched on the limb of the Curly Beech?
How many lives deemed successful were greened in this tree of life?
Climbing legs twist to hug the skyward limb and find a strength before unknown.
An arm level branch is the entrance to a hidden world just made for youth.
A cave of green with magnified peep-holes on the outer world, the real world,
as counter to the tree world of innocent dreams.
Perhaps the bark of the self-made man is the reflection of a soft velvet leaf from the magnificent Curly Beech.

By Gerald J. Halligan
1931 - 2008


Woodward Memorial Library | 7 Wolcott Street | LeRoy , New York 14482 | 585-768-8300