City gears up for opening of new library branch in Hill
(9/12/2006) It’s not often that a city builds a brand new state-of-the-art branch library. In fact, since the turn of the millennium, New Haven is the first city in Connecticut to build a new branch library.
So the grand opening Saturday, September 16, 2006 of the Courtland Seymour Wilson Branch Library at 303 Washington Avenue in the Hill neighborhood has great significance. The New Haven Free Public Library will strike up the bands on Saturday, September 16 from 1-5 pm and invite the public to tour the branch.
Festivities will include refreshments courtesy of the Library Board of Trustees, music from a local Latin Rock band, live DJ playing popular favorites and a high school marching band leading up to a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3:00 pm with Mayor John DeStefano, Jr and City Librarian James Welbourne. City and state officials will also welcome the public for an official tour of the new library after which a birthday cake will be cut for all to enjoy.
“Opening a new library branch at a time when many municipalities are belt tightening is a significant milestone for the City of New Haven,” DeStefano said. “We recognize how important libraries are as a source of education, recreation and pleasure for the residents of our neighborhoods. This new branch is the first built in the City since the mid-1960s and restores much needed library services to the Hill. We are especially excited that this branch will be the first with wireless technology.”
The new branch expands the library system in New Haven. Along with the main library downtown, New Haven operates the Stetson branch in the Dixwell neighborhood; the Mitchell branch in Westville; and the Fair Haven branch on Grand Avenue.
DeStefano congratulated the leadership of the Library’s Board of Directors and the Patrons of the New Haven Free Public, the private fundraising arm of the Library, who ran a successful $1 million campaign for New Haven’s 21st Century Library. The private monies raised supported the $6.5 million from city and state resources to build the new branch. “It is only through effective collaborative partnerships between City and private resources that institutions like the Library will be able to construct and operate a state of the art facility like the Courtland Seymour Wilson Branch Library” said Mayor DeStefano.
About the new branch:
Courtland Seymour Wilson Branch Library signals a turning point in the development of the New Haven Free Public Library system. As City Librarian Jim Welbourne explains, “the Wilson Branch is not only the first new library we have built in forty years, it is the first library to be built with a new millennium vision of library services. This branch was designed, with community input, to reflect the history and cultural heritage of the neighborhood; the economic and social needs of the community, and to house the information and technology resources one would expect to find in a state of the art public library.”
An attention to detail is present throughout the 19,000 square foot branch from a lower level dedicated to the community’s creativity to an upper level housing new books, materials and spaces that reflect the breadth of the neighborhood. On the upper level there is a Percent for Art piece entitled Passages created by artist Leila Daw. It maps the story of immigration to the Hill neighborhood from before the Civil War up to and including the present. The piece is suspended from the ceiling on both sides of the upper level while silhouette figures reflecting the differing cultures, ethnicity and time period s of immigrants descend through the skylight shaft down through the floors of the building.
Outside the building, a brick walkway leading up to the front door welcomes the public with wishes, memories and inspiring thoughts from Hill neighbors and the larger community.
Designed by Pozzi Associates, LLC and built by Tri-Con Construction Managers, LLC. Management, the branch is named for civic and community leader Courtland Seymour Wilson. Born and raised in New Haven, Courtland worked in a variety of New Haven businesses including Winchester rifle factory before becoming Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at the Yale School of Medicine where he helped desegregate the school. He retired from Yale New Haven Hospital’s Office of Government and Community Relations in the mid-80’s, and served as Executive Director of the Hill Development Corporation where he passionately pursued the goal of providing affordable housing for the neighborhood until his death in 2000. For more information or directions to Saturday’s event, please call Kathie Hurley, public information, 946-8125.