By Donna M. Perry, Sun Journal

JAY — The Jay-Niles Memorial Library holds history that spans 100 years.

Library representatives will share the history as they celebrate the centennial anniversary of the library with a birthday party and open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13. There will be a cake-cutting at 11:30 a.m. Activities will mark the special day including a book sale and grand opening of the Makerspace.

Stacks of cardboard will be used for a competition for furniture design.

The five sons of Mehitable and Varanas Niles built the stately library in memory of their parents and to fulfill their sister, Eliza’s, dream to have a library, Library Director Tamara Hoke said Friday.

Varanas moved to Jay at age 5 in 1807 from Massachusetts. He married Mehitable Harris of Greene in 1829. They spent their married life on a farm about a half-mile south of the library, according to a plaque in the front foyer.


The ground-breaking for the library occurred in 1916 and it was completed in 1917. When it was fully furnished in 1918, it opened its doors. An addition was built  in 1995 to include larger space for books, community space and to make the building handicap accessible, Hoke said.

The Jay-Niles Memorial Library will celebrate 100 years from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the library in Jay with historical displays, open house, book sale, cake, and the grand opening of the Makerspace for young people. The room has all kinds of creative materials, Lego’s, 3-D printer, sewing machine and more for kids age 8 through teenage years to use. (Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal)

The library features space to accommodate books for children, young people and adults, along with computers, movies and more.

There are 33,000 volumes of books and media in its collection, she said.

“We’re definitely still about books and always will be but we have come to realize some kids don’t have access to (technology) at home,” Hoke said.

Upstairs in Memorial Hall plaques with the names of Jay soldiers who served in the Civil War flank the stage.

Years ago, there was a Past Time Club where music, entertainment and other events were held.


A  piano from Hamilton Manufacturing of Chicago is in the corner of the hall. The Niles’ son, Eugene Niles donated it to library before he died in 1926, Hoke said.

It is still used today at times, she said.

All of the history, historical items and information on past programs  will be on display.

The new Makerspace is a place for kids age 8 years-old through teenage years where they can create with a variety of items including Legos, craft materials, sewing machine and 3-D printer.

The history of the 100-year-old Jay-Niles Memorial Library in Jay will be celebrated with an open house, cake, historical displays and a cardboard furniture contest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, at the library on Main Street. (Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal)

One of Hoke’s hopes is to have people using the front door again. Polycor in North Jay has offered to donate the granite for front stairs that could extend to Main Street, like the stairs did in the past. The granite used for the building came from Hallowell instead of North Jay because of a dispute, Hoke said.

“I think adding North Jay granite will add to the historical value of the building,” she said.

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