History of Ferguson Library

Since it first opened its doors at the end of the 19th century, The Ferguson Library has been the heart of the Stamford community, a place of learning and education, a gathering place where people could meet and exchange ideas. Sometimes even a place to come in out of the  cold for a while. As Stamford grew and changed, The Ferguson Library grew along with it. In 1911, The Ferguson became a free public library, embracing the concept that knowledge should be available to all, regardless of ability to pay.

The Ferguson now serves nearly a million visitors each year, and countless others access our online services. But our core values haven’t changed. The commitment to supporting lifelong learning, and providing free and equal access to information is still at the heart of our mission.

Library Timeline

  • 1877: John Day Ferguson leaves a bequest of $10,000 to aid in the establishment of a public library on the condition that fellow citizens donate $25,000.
  • 1880: The state legislature grants the charter incorporating the Library.
  • 1882: The Library opens in Dr. Payne’s building on Atlantic Street. Andrew W. Paradise is the first librarian. He is authorized to employ an assistant, whose salary is to be paid from his own pocket. Printed, bound lists of books are used as the equivalent of today’s electronic library catalog. Borrowers pay an annual fee of $2 for the use of the  Library, which is later reduced to $1.
  • 1889: The Ferguson Library moves to the Geib property on Atlantic Street.
  • 1909: The Library moves to its present location at Bedford and Broad streets.
  • 1911: The Ferguson Library becomes a free public library.
  • 1930: Main Library expanded.
  • 1940: Bookmobile service begins.
  • 1954: Weed Memorial Branch opens in Springdale.
  • 1967: Turn of River Branch opens in North Stamford.
  • 1970: South End Branch opens in the South End Community Center.
  • 1972-1975: Cataloging and circulation systems computerized. Literacy Volunteers begin. Dial-A-Book services begin.
  • 1979: Expansion and renovation of Main Library begins. Friends of Ferguson incorporated.
  • 1982: Second Main Library expansion completed.
  • 1985: Card catalog closes.
  • 1987: Ferguson Library Foundation incorporated.
  • 1988: Library begins circulating videocassettes.
  • 1995: Ferguson becomes first public library in Connecticut to provide public Internet access. Library creates its first webpage.
  • 1997: Purple Bus service begins. South End Branch reopens after renovation.
  • 1999: Library begins circulating DVDs. Passport Office opens at Main Library. Starbucks opens at Main Library.
  • 2000: Harry Bennett Branch opens. New Bookmobile. Library begins circulating ebooks.
  • 2004: Library introduces Wifi. Online homework help.
  • 2006: Weed Memorial & Hollander Branch reopens after renovation. Online live reference help.
  • 2007: Library celebrates 125th anniversary.
  • 2008: Main Library renovation begins.
  • 2010: South End Branch celebrates 40th anniversary. Harry Bennett Branch celebrates 10th anniversary. Main Library renovation completed.
  • 2015: South End Branch celebrates 45th anniversary. Bookmobile celebrates 75th anniversary.

About the Library's Name

John Day Ferguson was born in New York City in 1832 and moved with his family to Stamford when he was ten years old. He graduated from Trinity College in 1851, and after studying law privately, began a legal practice in New York City. He eventually came back to Connecticut, and in 1866 was elected to represent Stamford in the state legislature. Ferguson later served three years as a probate judge.

John Day Ferguson was passionate about education, and helped establish and promote the Stamford Public School system. Mr. Ferguson died in 1877 at age 45. In his will, he left a bequest of $10,000 to open a public library in Stamford, an institution he considered vital to public education. Ferguson’s $10,000 bequest was contingent on the citizens of Stamford donating another $25,000. On January 29, 1880, the new library was named The Ferguson Library in honor of its farsighted benefactor, John Day Ferguson.

Ferguson Library Directors

  • 1881 – 1896: Andrew W. Paradise
  • 1896 – 1907: Elizabeth Van Hoevenberg
  • 1907 – 1942: Alice M. Colt
  • 1942 – 1965: Mary Louise Alexander
  • 1965 – 1976: Marie V. Hurley
  • 1976 – 2014: Ernest A. DiMattia, Jr.
  • 2014 – present: Alice Knapp

Library History Gallery