On January 20, 1883, a group of Bristol residents formed the Bristol Library Association. The first Bristol Library used a single room over the Patterson store, and was opened to the public on August 5th, 1883. The public library was funded through membership fees, private donations, fundraising, and a borrowing fee of three cents per book. The library did not become public until March of 1902, when fifty dollars was appropriated at the town meeting to help fund a public library for all Bristol residents. Establishing the Bristol Public Library ended yearly membership fees as well as book rental charges.
Eight years later during a town meeting, Mr. William A. Lawrence proposed the construction of a building for library purposes, so long as the town would maintain the property as a library. Bristol residents accepted this offer, and Mr. Lawrence donated 800 dollars for the library project that same year. The building was completed on January 1911, and given in memory of Mrs. Lockie Partch Lawrence, Mr. Lawrence’s first wife, and Minnie Peet Lawrence, his second wife. During the dedication of the Lawrence Memorial Library, Mr. Lawrence was quoted saying, “I am aware that this new library, which we are here to dedicate this night, is not an elaborate affair, but is substantial, plain, modest, like the characters of the lives of those whose memory this new home for the library is to commemorate.”
William A. Lawrence’s will continued his support for the Lawrence Memorial Library, and included the donation of four tenement houses on Lawrence Lane that would help finance the library. Today, financial support for the library comes from tax revenue, endowment/investment income, and various fundraisers. A handicapped accessible entrance and lift leads to the Children’s Room and Community Room. In 2002, the main floor of the library was renovated to maintain the historic integrity of the building.
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On April 22, 2011 the Vermont House recognized our library and its service to the Bristol community for the past 100 years. See a copy of the special VT House Resolution here.