The forerunner of the Winchester Public Library was the South Woburn Library Association founded in 1848. After the incorporation of the Town of Winchester in 1850, the name of the association was changed to the Winchester Library Association.
The Winchester Public Library was founded in 1858, and the present building was constructed in 1931, at a cost of $137,000. Designed by highly regarded New England architect Robert Coit, along with the firm of Kilham, Hopkins & Greeley, the Library's English Norman exterior is of rough-faced Massachusetts granite with joints of dark mortar and trim of cut limestone. The building's innovative design, combining both an art gallery and library, was featured in the June, 1932, issue of The Architectural Forum.
An addition to the building, designed by Kilham, Hopkins, Greeley, and Brodie, was completed in 1966. It provided for a larger reading and reference room, an enlarged children's room, a workroom, and increased storage capacity.
On February 6, 1995, the Library Board of Trustees asked the Winchester Town Meeting to support a $4.3 million bond for the complete restoration of the Library. The final request was lowered to $4.1 million due to a $200,000 state grant. Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly in favor of the restoration project.
Though bond money covered the reconstruction of the building, the Library still needed funds for new furniture, updated technology, restoration of the historic murals and Tiffany stained glass, reconfiguration of the parking lot, landscaping and more. To avoid further burdening the Winchester taxpayers, the Board of Trustees, in cooperation with the Friends of the Library, launched the “Build for the Future!” campaign to raise an additional $500,000 in private donations.
In August, 1994, the Library moved to temporary quarters at 263 Main Street. Demolition and reconstruction began in March, 1995, and was completed in November, 1996. From the beginning, the renovation project was tightly monitored, with high standards of quality and cost-control. Construction costs were kept within budget.
The “Build for the Future!” campaign surpassed its goal, bringing in over $620,000. Over 1,100 individuals and families — one in seven Winchester households — contributed sums ranging from $5 to $100,000. Local businesses, town organizations, and hundreds of dedicated people provided an extraordinary outpouring of support. The campaign was exceptionally cost-efficient, with only 5% of receipts used to cover expenses. The value in dollars of the goods, time, and professional services donated to this project cannot even be estimated.
Thanks to the taxpayers, the $4.1 million bond paid for:
Thanks to donors to the "Build for the Future!" Campaign, the $620,000 paid for: