Public Library

Now: Webster House
Public Library
Union College Frank Santaro Postcard Collection
Public Library
Union College Robert N. Michaelson,
UC 1972, Postcard Collection

The Schenectady Free Public Library Association purchased this building site from the College, and the facility was constructed between 1901 and 1903 with the support of $15,000 from the General Company and $50,000 from Andrew Carnegie.

Originally the Association had planned to build the library further west, well off campus at the corner of Union and Jay Streets. An eager library user, Mrs. Perkins did not approve of this location because it was farther from the trolley and surrounded by small houses. Although she argued that either upper State Street or the Union College Pasture would be a better spot, she was upset when part of the latter was indeed sold as a site for the library. However, she was consoled by the idea that the College would be a more appropriate setting for the “dignity and beauty of the building” (March 12, 1901) and by the thought that the money Union received for the land might go toward building a badly needed new dormitory.

Mrs. Perkins was unimpressed by the ceremony that marked the beginning of the library’s construction: “There was a great laying of the New Library cornerstone by the Masons, and many wavings and clappings to the four corners of the earth and other capers.  I suppose it is because I am ignorant, but they do seem very funny doings” (May 6, 1902).  Nonetheless, Mrs. Perkins was a frequent patron of the library once the building was completed.

After the public library moved to a larger building in downtown Schenectady in 1970, the College repurchased the land as well as the structure and used it for offices before converting it into dormitories in 1973. At that time it was named Webster House in honor of former College President Harrison Webster.