When the third grade class from Lisbon school visits the library every fall as part of their unit on Lisbon history, they try to imagine what the town was like when it was new. Our library is now in the first commercial building to be constructed on the muddy Main Street in 1875, but of course the building wasn’t a library then. It was Wink and Hauser’s “Hardware, Tinware, Grocery and Notions Store,” offering just about everything the townspeople and rural settlers could possibly need. The third graders like to picture canned goods and bolts of fabric on the shelves that now hold books and think about buying candy from a counter where the circulation desk is now.
But there was no library in this early town, something that is hard for the students to imagine. On the wall behind the library’s circulation desk is a framed photo collage of Lisbon’s graduating class of 1936, who took a class called “Social Problems” taught by Mrs. N.A. York. A problem of special interest to the class was “What does Lisbon need most?” They got help from local groups like the Campfire Girls and Legion Auxiliary and went to every household in town for donations of books and funding to solve their problem and start a library. Eight hundred books were donated and housed in a tiny room in what was called the Lustre-Sheen building. Then they moved to the second floor of Peet’s Feed Store on West Main, and in 1944 they found a bigger space at 132 East Main in what later became Best Oil Company. It wasn’t until 1956 that the library found its permanent home at 101 East Main, when the city purchased the two-story brick building that had continued to serve as a grocery store.
In 1997 the second floor of the current library building was renovated and restored to its original purpose as a performance and gathering space for cultural events. Lisbon Heritage Hall is once again sought after by musicians for its outstanding acoustic qualities and intimate setting. The signatures and graffiti of past performers dating back to 1877 can be viewed on preserved sections of the original wall.
Thanks to the hard work of the members of the Lisbon Historic Preservation Commission, the library building—along with the entire downtown district—was designated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019. To read about the history and see both old and contemporary photographs of each of the buildings in the district, visit the Commission’s website at www.lisbonhistoricpreservation.com. You can also click on the Videos heading to watch their series of short films called “Opening Doors to Lisbon History,” including one about the Lisbon Library.