The George F. Johnson Memorial Library in Endicott, NY will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year. This news became known when Merle Newberry was chosen to be the Velma K. Moore Award winner this year. Merle generously donated his time, energy and wisdom to the library for three decades. He is one of many who devoted time and energy to the library. That is a community of doers.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the Town of Union was rolling hills and farm pastures overlooking the Susquehanna River. George F. Johnson had a vision for industry and transformed the town into “Shoetown.” George F. Johnson partnered with Henry B. Endicott, built factories and hired immigrants to make shoes and boots. Immigrants would land at Ellis Island asking “Which way E.J.?” Though the town bears his name, Henry B. Endicott remained a citizen in Massachusetts until his death.
George F. Johnson believed in providing for his workers and their families. He built homes, parks, pools, carousels, and provided medical care for his workers. In 1915 when a group of concerned citizens asked for his support to provide a library, George F. Johnson promised his support.
The Endicott Free Library opened on March 15, 1915, in the Matoon Building on Washington Avenue. . The International Time Recording (ITR) company was influential in the formation of the library, donating a self-winding Master clock, positioned prominently by the librarian’s desk.
The library was so well-received it launched the first bookmobile in the northeast in 1916. The bookmobile would travel to neighborhoods during the evening and lend books to read. It was such a success many larger library systems contacted the librarian, Margery Quigley, for information. The library closed on September 6, 1918, when it was moved to the much larger former residence of H. F. Bundy. The residence became known as the Ideal Home Library. The interior contained intricate woodwork, stained glass windows, oriental carpets, and fine furnishings.
The Hillside Center Library was built and opened as a branch library on March 2, 1920. English language classes were offered. Other classes offered included sewing, cooking, and boxing. During the 1920s there was tremendous growth in Endicott.
In 1933 a new IBM engineering and education building was constructed on North Street in Endicott. Thomas J. Watson, Sr., with years of success in the time recording industry, continued to prosper. By 1938 Thomas J. Watson earned $453,000.00. Thomas J. Watson, Sr. asked George F. Johnson if employees would move to Endicott, Johnson assured Watson workers would come. IBM built more industrial buildings than Endicott Johnson Shoes had built.
George F. Johnson died in 1948. His home, built in 1903, on Park Street was sold to the Village of Endicott for one dollar with the stipulation it be used as a library for the people of Endicott. The home was outstanding with gold leaf fixtures in the bathrooms and a circular staircase to the second floor. The carriage house of George F. Johnson’s residence remains standing today.
By the mid-1960s the community of Endicott had grown because of the success brought by George F. Johnson and Thomas J. Watson, Sr. The library was too small to meet the needs of the community. The George F. Johnson home was demolished and the new George F. Johnson Memorial Library was built on the property, opening on September 25, 1967. The George F. Johnson Memorial Library prepares for its centennial of serving the community built by Johnson and Watson.