You may have gone by the Cossitt Library recently and said “What in the world is happening there?” Plastic is covering windows and exterior walls. This grand old building is in trouble. It desperately needs support beyond what the town of Granby can provide. Previous and ongoing water damage linked to rotting windows, sills and surrounds in the library’s upper “lantern” are of primary concern. Interior ceilings, woodwork and other areas are affected. Although window leakage was addressed approximately 10 years ago by the town, the leakage continues. Because it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it qualifies for grants and aid from the state of Connecticut. Why did it qualify for listing on the National Register?
One reason is because it is a well-preserved example of the Queen Anne style of architecture.
Nearly all of its original features, including cypress shingle siding, paired-arch lower level windows, decorative brickwork and clerestory upper arched windows are intact. The symmetry of the building and the form the roof takes with its row of windows are actually considered rare for this style.
It is also important for its namesake and benefactor, Frederick Henry Cossitt. He was born in Granby in 1811, and was the great-great grandson of Rene and Ruth Cossitt who had settled in this area in the early 1700s. For the most part, he remained in Granby until 1826 when his father died. At the request of his uncle, George Cossitt, he bid Granby a final farewell and moved to Tennessee. After being engaged in business ventures in several southern states, he moved to Memphis in 1842 where he carried on a successful wholesale dry goods business. In 1846 he married Catherine Andrus of Hartford and they had three daughters and one son. The eldest daughter, Helen, married Augustus D. Juilliard of New York City. They had no children and upon their deaths, they left over 12 million dollars to create the Juilliard Musical Foundation.
Prior to Frederick H. Cossitt’s death on September 23, 1887, he had orally expressed a desire to build a library in his birth town of Granby, Connecticut. Although this desire was never reduced to writing, his heirs honored his desire and gave $10,000 to the town of Granby.
The library in Granby was opened in 1891 in a new building with 1,300 books on the shelves. It was located across the street from the house where Frederick H. Cossitt was born 80 years earlier and on property that was once owned by Rene Cossitt.
The Friends of the Cossitt Library with the help of the Pomeroy-Brace Fund and The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation have begun the process to restore this architectural masterpiece to its original glory. Check us out on FaceBook for updated information about progress that is being made.