Russell Library History
In 1840, Christ Episcopal Church rented the basement of the church to Connecticut’s first public high school for $125 a year. One year later, the high school moved up to College Street.
Samuel Colt, American inventor, industrialist, and businessman who established Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, was married in the church on June 5, 1856.
Mrs. Frances Russell purchased the church building for $15,000. In today’s dollars that would equal $370,000. She spent another $25,000 remodeling the building. Today that remodel would cost $600,000!
Once the building became a library, weddings continued to happen in the public meeting room. The very first wedding in the library took place in 1896, and the groom was the son of the janitor, Warren Pease, who lived in the basement.
How Russell Library Came to Be
Frances Russell established Russell Library in memory of her husband, Samuel. Purchasing the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity on the corner of Broad and Court Streets in 1873, Mrs. Russell remodeled the Greek Revivial building in the Roman Gothic Style, including adding the stained glass windows and a tower off the back of the building. The building opened as the public library for the City of Middletown on April 5, 1876. Patrons had to be 14 years old to borrow materials and everyone was only allowed to borrow one book at a time!
The Hubbard Room was added, creating Middletown’s first children’s library.
The first mezzanine level was added in the original church building to provide room for more book stacks.
The Library purchased the old the First Federal Savings and Loan Bank located on the lot next to the library. The building was remodeled and became a separate Children’s Library.
The church and the Children’s Library (old bank building) were connected. The current children’s room was built and the second mezzanine level was added. Access was improved by the addition of an elevator and ramps. The combined buildings surround an inner courtyard. The renovation was intended to take the library to the year 2000.
Responding to space needs, the library purchased an adjacent building on Court Street for staff offices.
Russell Library Directors
George F. Winchester, 1876-1884
Willis K. Stetson, 1884-1887
Laura F. Philbrook, 1887-1917
Edna H. Wilder, 1917-1926
Nathaly E. Newton, 1926-1963
William Van Beynum, 1963-1978
Arlene Biefield, May-June 1978
Linda Rusczek, 1978-1979
Stuart Porter, 1979-1997
Arthur Myers, 1997-2016
Matthew Poland, 2016-2018
Ramona Burkey, 2018-present
In 2021, Middletown and the Russell Library commissioned a comprehensive
facility conditions assessment and space planning recommendations project.
HMA2 architects, in collaboration with Legacy Engineers, Maxine Bleiweis & Associates, and AP Construction,
was hired to deliver assessments and recommendations to set the stage for the Russell Library going forward.
123 Broad Street
Middletown CT 06457
Sunday 1-5pm (October-March)