Weekly Feature

2018-07-12 / Editorial

Upon the opening of a new library, town’s first remembered

Friends of the West Seneca Library

Monday, June 25, 2018, a date to remember: the West Seneca Public Library opened its new doors. I was thrilled to be there as were the many dedicated patrons who had regularly visited the little trailer that was the temporary home of the library.

Comments about the new library were positive and enthusiastic. To many the space seemed “big,” the children’s area “fun” with a puppet theater, and special benches and nooks to read many good books. The new study rooms were quickly occupied by patrons who were happy to find a quiet space to call their own. I had the opportunity to check out the very first book from our new library. Most exciting was meeting Peggy. She has been a lifelong patron and told me what it was like when the “old library” was the “new library” in 1958. And best of all, she knew Matilda Uebelhoer, and remembered her best as being “very, very kind.”

In 1935 Matilda offered her home, an original Ebenezer building, as the very first library in West Seneca. It was located at the top of the hill at 1248 Union Road and Main Street. Together with good friends like pharmacist Robert Pletscher, who lived across the street, they applied to the State of New York for a five-year provisional charter and an annual grant of $100. The library in her home became known as The Ebenezer Free Library. Matilda volunteered to become the first librarian. Thirteen years later, in 1948, The Ebenezer Free Library joined the Erie County System and appointed and paid Matilda as librarian. She served in subsequent years as a trustee and librarian until her retirement in 1954.

In an article from the Buffalo Courier-Express on Sunday, Dec. 26, 1954, Matilda is described as “petite, spirited and energetic.” She is pictured lovingly placing a book on the library shelf. In the article she reminisces about her impending retirement and proudly recalls the first book loaned when the library opened on Aug. 23, 1935. It was “The Little Minister,” by James M. Barrie. “I thought so much of it, I had it rebound to preserve it,” she explained. “It’s good reading and I hope the desire for that type of reading keeps up.”

In a regretful acceptance of Matilda’s retirement in 1954, Hilda M. Bender, the secretary of the Board of Trustees wrote, “We know very well that, though we must appoint another librarian, she can never take your place. No one could possibly do that, for you have been so vital a part of the library ever since its modest beginning. You have given freely of your property, your time, and your effort, but more than that, you have given of your spirit. In your quiet, unassuming way, with the good of the community always at heart, you have been instrumental in establishing and maintaining a source of pleasure and inspiration for your neighbors who must forever be gratefully in your debt.” In January 1955, Mrs. Howard Corff Sr. succeeded Mrs. Uebelhoer as librarian. On May 16, 1955 the Town Board voted to use a part of Centennial Park, now Veterans Park, as the site for a new library. May 1956 saw the name change to The West Seneca Branch of the Erie County Public Library, and by August plans were made for the construction of a new library. By November 1957, a referendum regarding the building of a library at town expense was passed by a large majority. A year later, in August 1958, construction began with the plan of architect M. Russell Turley. The cornerstone of the new library was laid in October.

The address of 1300 Union Road, once a new library in 1959 and replaced again in 2018, as the cornerstones proudly remember, still whispers the spirit of its original founder “to whom we will forever be gratefully in debt.”

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