History

The red brick building on Maine Street in Kennebunkport, known to generations of families as the Louis T. Graves Memorial Public Library, was built in 1813 as the Kennebunk Bank in Arundel. In 1821 the town name was changed to Kennebunkport to reflect its growing status as a shipbuilding center on the Kennebunk River.

In 1831 the U.S. Government purchased the building to use as a Customs House. In 1898 the Kennebunkport Free Library, an organization founded by Mrs. Anne Talbot four years before, moved to the second floor.

In 1916 the Kennebunkport Public Library Association was formed, absorbing Mrs. Talbot’s library. Four years later, Mr. and Mrs. Abbott Graves purchased the property at auction for $1,350. In 1921, the Graves family deeded the property to the Library Association on the condition that the Library be named in memory of their deceased son Louis T. Graves who valued books all his life.

Their gift remains one of the most enduring and significant contributions to the town of Kennebunkport. Today visitors find not only an outstanding collection of books and multimedia services, they can also view significant historical artifacts and artwork, ranging from paintings by Abbott Graves, half hull models of ships built on the Kennebunk River, to the original bank vault which holds a portion of the Library’s magazine collection.

All residents and visitors are welcome to our beautiful and historic Library.

 

20150810_77891813 Original red brick building built as the Kennebunk Bank in Arundel.

1815 Customs District installed on the second floor.

1831 Bank’s charter revoked, property purchased by US government for use as a Customs House.

1894 Kennebunkport Free Library founded by Mrs. Anne Talbot. She donated books, bookcases, and hired a librarian.

1898 Library moved to second floor of Customs House.

1913 Customs District eliminated. Building leased by government to Mrs. Talbot as a library.

1916 Kennebunkport Public Library Association formed, absorbing Mrs. Talbot’s library. Books, goods and services donated by residents and community.

1920 Property purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Abbott Graves. Room added to rear of building.

1921 Property deeded to Library Association by the Graves on condition the Library be named for their deceased son Louis T. Graves.

1930 Children’s Department with storybook murals by Louis Norton opened on second floor. (Picture book of murals now available for sale at the front desk.)

1956 Second rear room added with gift from Dean Chester Emerson.

1974 Library building named to the National Register of Historic Places.

1988 Renovation and expansion included handicapped access, a work room, a young adult room and a reading room.

1995 Publication of the cookbook I Want That Recipe! (To date 9,000 copies have been sold.)

1998 Perkins House purchased to be used for ongoing Book Sale and meeting space for non-profit groups and Town Department Committees.

1999 Open House for Perkins House. Library circulation and automated catalogue online.

2005 Automatic doors for easy access installed at Library entrance.

2013 Centennial observed. Publication of Kennebunkport : the Evolution of an American Town, (a two-volume set) for the time period 1603-2003 written by local historian Joyce Butler. Publication of Magical Murals: Louis Norton’s Gift to the Children of Kennebunkport.

For a more detailed history see articles researched and written by Joyce Butler in the vertical file of the Library office.