BATAVIA – The Richmond Memorial Library, a gift to the community from its most famous family, will begin its 125th anniversary observance Monday with a 7 p.m. program of song and bits of history recalling its span of years.
The library was a gift of part of an eight-acre estate and $24,000 in cash from Mary Read Richmond, the village’s wealthiest and most influential woman. It is a memorial to her son, Dean Richmond Jr., who died at age 49 of typhoid malaria. He was the youngest of nine children and the only one born in Batavia.
Dean Richmond amassed a fortune in shipping to and from the Port of Buffalo after it became the western terminus of the Erie Canal. A visionary, he later put together 10 small railroads from Buffalo to Albany, creating the New York Central, which after his death fueled the Vanderbilt fortunes with an expansion that stretched south to New York and west to Chicago.
The 1889 sandstone building almost doubled in size in the late 1970s with space for 100,000 volumes, added seating for researchers and an expanded children’s room. Computers now abound and the gallery in the old building continues to host book reviews and seminars.
Mary Read Richmond was a widow for 29 years and became a major investor in the community’s large industries. She left a $2 million estate, one-third larger than her husband’s, when she died in 1895 at age 81, a span of life no other Richmond achieved.
The library is owned by the city school district but operates under its own $1.2 million budget and is governed by an elected five-member board of trustees.