New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 

History of the New Castle Library 1810 - 2010

By Carlo Viola, Library Committee, Trustees of New Castle Common

Renovated and expanded New Castle Library in 2010

1810 - 1892

The New Castle Library Company was organized in 1811 and incorporated in 1812 making it the second earliest Delaware library. The company was private and borrowing privileges were limited to members and students at the New Castle Academy where it was housed into the 1880's

1892 - 1964

In July 1890, land was purchased from Margaret Janvier for $1,000 for the purpose of building a new library on East Third Street. Furness and Company of Philadelphia designed the new library at a projected construction cost of $5,500. Begun in 1891, it opened for business in mid October 1892.

It was described as "the subject of great admiration"because of its "fine proportions, rich and varied brickwork"and "the exterior colors brick red, toffee and apple green"which were described as "rich earth colors in surprising combinations. "Plans for a grand opening on September 1 were delayed because of intoxication among the workmen. It was reported that "If the mechanics could get sober and remain so for a few weeks, the building would be finished before winter."

The new library, like its predecessor in the New Castle Academy, continued to operate as a subscription library.

In March 1942 the State Library Commission notified the New Castle Library Company that the General Assembly had set aside $250 as State Aid for our library, contingent on meeting the "necessary requirements". By June, the necessary agreements were in place and the New Castle Library became a public library. It operated as such through 1954.


On January 3,1955, Judge Richard Rodney, President of the Trustees of the New Castle Common, sent a letter to the rest of the Board about "a matter of interest to the citizens of New Castle and which I think will continue to be of a great amount of lasting benefit." He reviewed the history and the failing status of the New Castle Library Company and asked whether the the Board would "be willing to receive"all assets of the New Castle Library Company and "keep the Library in operation." The Board concurred and on December 9, 1955 an agreement was signed containing the provision; "The Trustees of New Castle Common will receive the deed for the property, investments and other property for the purpose of insuring the operation of a public library in the City of New Castle."This commitment was memorialized with a bronze plaque which was affixed to the front of the Library. Also contained in that agreement was this provision; "The activities of the Trustees in connection with the Library may be by a committee appointed by the Trustees either from within or without its membership." This structure, with a combination of Trustees and citizen volunteers, continues to this day.

1964 - 2009

In 1964, the "Old Library" was replaced by the modern structure at Fifth and Delaware Streets. Designed by the New Castle architect, Albert Kruse, it became a source of pride for the citizens of New Castle and an important part of community life. In 1975, New Castle County announced a countywide library system and the New Castle Library entered into an agreement by which the majority of operating funds would be provided by the County with the Trustees providing and maintaining the building. By the late 1980's, however, the need for renovation and expansion was clear. For the next 20 years various plans were developed but none came to fruition.


In early 2005, the State Division of Libraries unveiled the results of a comprehensive statewide Master Plan for Libraries. For the first time, each Delaware library was able to understand its unique role in the context of an overall statewide plan. Plans were developed. architects and builders were hired and funds were raised. Construction took a year and, in March of 2010 the renovated and expanded New Castle Public Library opened its doors, 200 years after the first New Castle library was organized.