If you have ever been to the old Swan Library building, you’d know immediately after walking in that it used to be a home. The building was the former Burrows’ Mansion.

Founding of Swan Library 1890 – 1900

William and Emma Swan, Albion residents, began looking at libraries at home and abroad, planning their gift to Albion. However, they had not begun the library when William died on November 10, 1896. The executors of the will, Emma Swan (1836-1904) and Judge Isaac Signor (1842-1935), now began the task of establishing the building, obtaining a charter, and hiring a librarian. These two executors would directly influence the library for the next 39 years and their decisions still affect the library today.

The codicil to William G. Swan’s will directed the executors to erect the building as soon as possible after his death; to state that if the county provided a lot, the library would be for the whole county, otherwise for Albion only; and that the executors should incorporate The Swan Memorial Library Association and turn over the building and remaining money to the association within five years of Swan’s death.

On April 2, 1895, Swan added a second codicil to his will, stating that he intended to build the library in his lifetime, if his health permitted. If he died before he built the library or before it was complete, his executors should complete it as in the first codicil.

Evidently when the executors began to look for a spot to build their library, they found that $35,000 was not much to buy a lot, erect a building, and buy equipment and books, especially when George Pullman’s $65,000 church dominated Courthouse Square.

Deciding that they could not build a library building, the executors bought the Roswell S. Burrows mansion, built in 1854 on the northwest corner of the Courthouse Square, for $6,000. The Burrows mansion seemed to be a good choice: it was on the Courthouse Square between the primary school in Central Hall and the high school on West Academy Street.

It seemed huge in comparison to the two rooms occupied by the Albion Free Town and Albion Public Libraries. This mansion also had special meaning; Burrows had been the richest man in Albion, he had been William Swan’s employer as the majority stockholder in the suspension bridge, and he had been a staunch Baptist.

The plans for the change from a mansion to a library were made by architect J. Mills Platt of Rochester. In the first two weeks of April 1899, local contractor Ozro Bates removed the addition on the rear and tore our the interior partitions in the mansion to give the contractors a clearer idea of what would be necessary for the conversion. Construction started in late spring under contractor George P. Harris.

The Burrows mansion was in a restrained Greek Revival style. There were simple double pilasters at the corners and in the center of the east and south sides. The bases of the central pilasters were supported by wide porches. Coupled doric columns supported porticoes with flat roofs and solid balustrades that matched the balustrade on the roof. There was a simple entablature with five small windows in the frieze on the front. The windows were six over six and all had shutters.

The interior was complete by January, 1900.

“The reading room runs the length of the building on the north side. It is finished in oak, with two alcove bridges supported by columns to break the space. Two cases for reference books are provided. The librarian’s desk faces this room, while a window opens into the hall on her right for receiving and giving out books without disturbing readers. A door at her left communicates with the library. The cases are metallic, olive green, arranged both around the walls and in back to back stands. The trustees think the present housing will accommodate 14,000 volumes,” said The Orleans Republican newspaper.

Click to enlarge images and read the captions.

To learn more about the history of the Swan Library building, copies of Albion Historian Neil Johnson’s book “Books and Money” are available in the Friends of the Library book sale room.

Moving Toward the Future

Eventually, a bigger space was deemed necessary. Stacks were stuffed and the children’s section certainly needed an upgrade. Patrons also needed more parking than the few spaces offered immediately around the Swan building.

In October 2009, the Board of Trustees purchased the lot at 134 South Main Street, the location of the former Dale’s Supermarket. In January 2010, the Board of Trustees selected King & King Architects LLP of Syracuse, NY, to create the new building.

In July 2012, the new library opened under the new name of Hoag Library. The new facility is 14,600 square feet and features a local history room, a separate children’s library, a large meeting room area, a cafe and lounge, and more.

Today, the Hoag building is still our current location and we encourage you to visit and see what materials and services we have to offer.

Click to enlarge images and read the captions.