On September 23rd, 1952, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary and the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Women’s Club met at a combined meeting to establish the Library Association which would spearhead fund raisers and begin the process of building a library from the bottom up.
Among other fundraising, the Library Association went door to door soliciting people to come to their homes for breakfast on a particular day — and the invited guests would then be charged for their breakfast.
A benefit musical with folk dancers, auctions, old-timers’ basketball games, bricks for a nickel, and an art show were all also used to raise money to build a library in the community.
Shortly after, Our Lady of Grace Church on Edward Street in Ballston Lake volunteered to host the first library in Ballston: in the cellar of their church building. At the time, state law mandated that a library had to operate on its own for a year before a charter would be granted by the state and, within the next year, the Townley family donated the land to create a library in the community at the site of the present building at 2 Lawmar Lane in Burnt Hills.
That first library had over 2,000 books, either purchased or donated. It was open only three days a week but was a very popular place in the community. By 1958, the library had been placed under the auspices of the town of Ballston where it remains today.
That library grew right along with the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake community. Many changes that occurred in our state and country can be seen in the history of the library. The parking lot was paved in 1962, as the automobile became an essential element of suburban communities everywhere. Air conditioning was added in 1963 for the comfort of the patrons. A xerox copier was purchased in 1969, as these machines became essential to our lives. An addition was put on in 1981. The first computer was added in 1982. The American Disabilities Act of 1992 caused a great deal of reflection as some major modifications were necessary to meet that code.
As the building was outgrown town of Ballston residents passed a resolution in 1997 to construct a new one next to the old (in the old library’s parking lot). The new library was completed in 2001 and is still in use to this day. It’s twice as large as the old, with twice the shelf capacity.
The two beautiful stained-glass windows in the building were created by local resident David Pfaffenbach. One depicts the official seal of the town; the other some of its most important features – the growing of apples, canoes on the lake, the old trolley, and whitetail deer who inhabit the area.
The library has not finished growing. A 2021 grant will provide for a new local history research room, with space dedicated to the library’s extensive collection of local resources.
Drawing of original library building 1952.
Rick Reynolds has been the Ballston Town Historian since 2004. He is a retired social studies teacher at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Middle school and is the author of the book “From Wilderness to Community: The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central School District. Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.