In 1890, Miss Anna Amory, a Trustee of the Boston Public Library and summer resident of Wareham, offered a $500 collection of books to the Monday Club of Wareham to be a library for the Town of Wareham. The Monday Club agreed to support the library until such time as the Town would appropriate funds for its support.
The library was incorporated in 1891 and Miss Amory was named president. She assumed all expenses for the first year. The library was located on the second floor of a hat shop on Main Street, in the area where the Decas Block is presently. In 1913, the library was housed on the northern side of the Redmen’s Building on Main Street.
The Library Directors had long wished the Library to have its own building and had made a down payment on property on Main Street where the Makepeace home stood. In 1915, on the death of George Oakes Tobey, Jr., his mother, Blanche Waterman Tobey, offered to construct a library building in memory of her son.
The offer was accepted and the Makepeace property was sold. The land for the new building was given by Mrs. Horace Tobey. The ceiling and fireplace in the reading room were a gift of Mrs. Alice Tobey Jones.
The Tudor style building was completed and presented to the Wareham Free Library Corporation on September 28, 1916. The building belonged to the Wareham Free Library as long as it continued to be used as a public library.
In 1971, the Board of Trustees saw the need to refurbish the library building. They were successful in obtaining revenue sharing funds for this purpose and the building was completely refurbished and renovated in 1974. Electrical compact shelving was installed in the stack room as an effort to provide space for expanding what was an extremely poor collection. Circulation tripled and then quadrupled; and the Trustees were made acutely aware of the community’s desire for good library service. The basement’s meeting room was redone as a children’s room and more compact shelving was added to the stack room. At that point, there was nothing more that could be done. All the space was used.
In 1976, the Trustees applied for a federal grant to build an addition. The effort was unsuccessful because the land and building were not owned by the Town.
In 1988, the Wareham Free Library applied to and received a grant from the Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program to build Wareham’s first town-owned public library building.
The building site was chosen along Rte. 6 near the Memorial Town Hall on the north side of the street. The site was once the home of the Pilgrim Memorial School, which burned down in July of 1966. The site was then called the Arruda Playground, but had fallen into considerable disrepair. The site was chosen because it was owned by the Town and is in a desirable central location.
On May 6, 1991 the library opened its doors to the public, at 59 Marion Road. The new library designed by Amsler Woodhouse MacLean, Architects, Inc. and built by Travi Construction Corp. of Norwell, has received praise from across the state for its design and beauty.
In June 2005, Spinney Memorial, Inc., Friends of the Wareham Free Library, Inc., and the Town of Wareham, acting by and through its Board of Selectmen sign a contract where Spinney Memorial, Inc. donates a historic building in the village of Onset to the Friends for renovation as a branch of the public library. The historic Spinney building was for many years used as a meeting place for local scouts.
The Friends of the Wareham Free Library, Inc. began fundraising and over $700,000 was raised. This included $120,000 in Community Preservation funds. The addition and renovation to the historic building was designed by Stephen Kelleher Architects and construction by R.P. Valois & Company was completed June, 2011.
At Town Meeting on April 23, 2012 voters accepted the Spinney Memorial Branch Library in Onset as a gift from the Friends of the Wareham Free Library.
The Friends continue to pay the operating costs of the branch until the Town is able to do so. Residents of Onset now have a library and municipal presence in the village and all the opportunities that this provides. The Wareham Free Library – Spinney Branch 259 Onset Avenue opened to the public on July 16, 2012.