History Lesson: Flower Memorial Library, a public treasure

History Lesson: Flower Memorial Library
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 5:41 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - This summer, Flower Memorial Library in Watertown marked 120 years serving the community.

“July 11th, 1903, was the day the first cornerstone to build the library was ever laid,” library director Suzi Renzi-Falge said.

It’s called Flower Memorial Library in honor of Gov. Roswell P. Flower, who served two terms in New York state.

“He was a farm kid from Theresa, New York,” Renzi-Falge said. “He pulled himself up by his bootstraps, he earned his wealth on Wall Street. He was known as the Bull of Wall Street.

Although it’s named for the governor, it was his daughter who was responsible for the library.

“In the late 1800s, the city of Watertown had a lot of wealthy folks in the area,” Renzi-Falge said. “Following Andrew Carnegie’s footsteps, the folks in Watertown believed it was their duty to have a public library.”

In came local philanthropist Emma Flower Taylor.

“She wrote a beautiful letter to the mayor of the city and offered to build the library for the community. She wasn’t just the donor, she wanted a hand in the way the library was laid out.”

She spared no expense for the details.

“We have uniquely painted portraits, thoughtfully picked pieces of art, thoughtfully picked quotes and sayings revolving around literacy,” Renzi-Falge said. “She put a lot of thought into what they created here for the public.”

The library has grown and expanded through the years, getting around 100,000 patrons each year.

“I believe our impact to the community is only going to keep growing,” said Renzi-Falge. “Libraries can change and morph with the times, and we’re doing better than ever.”

Every year is a new chapter for Emma Flower Taylor’s vision of a beautiful public space for literature, culture, and community.