by Lois C. Flesche
Willoughby Adelbert Wallace, a Stony Creek resident,
died in November 1946, he left the bulk of his estate in
Trust to the Town of Branford for a free public library
in Stony Creek. Should the town fail to accept the
bequest within a ten year period, the trust provided
that the estate would go to the Congregational Church of
Christ, Stony Creek to be used in any way they choose.
The estate at
Wallace’s death totaled approximately $93,000, a
sizeable amount in those days. The monies were left to
purchase a lot in Stony Creek suitable for construction
of a library building plus the appropriate furnishings
and equipment for a library.
of Stony Creek were divided over the bequest. Some saw,
as a first priority, a need for a recreation building,
to be built by the church with the Trust monies. Some
thought the unrestricted use of the monies by the church
wouldn’t be wise. Others saw the library as a prime need
in Stony Creek.
the issue didn’t come about until the ten year deadline
was almost up. By the time the Willoughby Wallace
Memorial Fund had grown to $186,000.
for the decision was April 4, 1956. The decision to
accept the Trust monies was made after heated discussion
at a Town Meeting on Feb.29, 1956 attended by some 600
residents. First on the agenda that night was the
acquisition of land for a new high school. That issue
too provoked strong feeling among the attendees and was
the subject os at least as much acrimonious debate as
the library bequest. The voters that night eventually
approved $135,000 to buy the land where the high school
Then came the
Wallace bequest. A spokeswoman for a Stony Creek Study
Committee on the library issue reported that the
committee, appointed by the Board of Selectmen,
recommended acceptance of the Wallace bequest. Members
of the Blackstone Library Board also spoke in favor of
the library and agreed to help with staffing and
equipment for the library. Others spoke in favor of
letting the monies go to the church for the building of
a recreational building which would be used by the
entire community. A closing statement by a Mrs. James
King, who said: “Branford must be rich indeed if it can
afford to pay $135,000 for a school site and reject a
gift of $185,000”, brought the issue to an end. At that
point a motion was made to accept the bequest to the
Town of Branford. It passed overwhelmingly.
started in October 1956 and the library was opened on
Nov.1, 1958. the architect Douglas Orr, who lived in
Stony Creek offered to design the building at no cost to
the town. Castellucci Brothers made what has been
described as a “most impressive” gift – all the granite
used in the construction.
Wallace was considered a penurious person, something of
a miser in his habits, but his legacy has benefited th
town immeasurably. The library is a well used facility
whose staff and offerings have been met with high regard
by the community at large.
Questions or Suggestions?