The library was built in 1929 and designed and financed by legendary Hoosac businessman Alpheus Winterborn. After the completion of the building, Winterborn actually lived in the library as if it were his own home. He died shortly after its grand opening. It was later discovered by Anthony Monday that Winterborn hid something of great wealth in the library, as well as strategically hidden clues and red herrings to guide one upon the trail to its location.
The building is described as being two-stories with a tall, round tower at one corner that had a slate roof and weather vane. It was built of black stone that glistened when wet and covered with carvings of dwarfs hammering on anvils, stone scholars reading stone books, dragons and other strange things:
Over the main doorway of the library was a carving that showed a half-moon. The moon was the kind you see in Mother Goose books, with a face and big, long nose. Under the moon face was a stone banner, and on it these words were carved: Believe only half of what you read (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn; 9).
Inside the main entrance is the Main Desk as well as various offices for library staff, including Myra Eells.
On one side of the entrance is the West Reading Room, where Myra busies herself dusting the bookshelves (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, 12-4). The room contained a magazine rack and a fireplace was lit daily during winter; over the fireplace is a square panel with various carved fruits and monkeys. At the top was a pointed cornice with a half-moon on its point and a banner than reads "Believe Only Half of What you Read." Later, when Anthony attempts to clean the moon, the small wooden ornament falls and breaks open, revealing a gold coin and a small tightly wrapped piece of paper (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, 24-6).
Opposite this room is the East Reading Room; it also contains a fireplace with a marble mantle (The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb; 12, 31) and is where Miss Eells proudly displayed (for a short time) the Nightwood oil lamp (The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb; 30). Mr. Beemis, a frequent visitor to the library, was often found here (The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb, 102; The Mansion in the Mist, 96], as are the remnants of spitballs from a group of kids that irritates Miss Eells (The Dark Secret of Weatherend, 179; The Lamp from the Warlock’s Tomb, 67).
Upstairs is an auditorium, where lectures and slideshows were given; a room solely given over to the Hoosac Historical Society Museum (it is seldom open but Anthony in his role as library page has keys and pops in occasionally to examine the display cases of antique pistols and swords and to try on Civil War helmets); and a smoking room where ash trays are provided for those who wanted to smoke during their visit (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, 22-3).
The library housed a Children's Reading Room (The Dark Secret of Weatherend, 5) for many years until it was removed at the insistence of Mrs. Hanson Oxenstern, the president of the library board, to make way for the Genealogy Room. The new room was dedicated October 29, 1954, with a tea for the Minnesota Genealogical Society (The Dark Secret of Weatherend, 55).
The main area upstairs was dedicated to the Alpheus Winterborn Reading Room, a small parlor with sofas and overstuffed chairs containing items owned or dedicated by the library's designer. Glass cases contained Winterborn's perpetual-motion machines and shelves held books from his personal library, including the "long and boring account, written out in his longhand, of his archeological career." A portrait of Winterborn hangs over a marble fireplace (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn ,23).
Despite the size of the immense structure, only about half of it was really needed, or even used, by the library (The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn, 22).
The basement is mainly used for storage and has a broom closet, but it mostly contains the secret entrance to the Tower Room.
Described as a four-story tower on the northwest corner of the library building, the Tower Room is void of life – the shells of dead insects dot the floor and there is no electricity or furniture. The room is noted as having nine oval windows, and in the middle of the ceiling was a trap door that led to the roof and the reindeer weather vane. That weather vane has never worked, either – it’s been stuck for years.
- Myra Eells
- Mrs. Lesh
- Elvira Pratt
- Mrs. Trombly
- Mrs. Willingance
A love of literature surely brought the young Bellairs to the library many times in his youth and, for all we know he may have been a library page like Anthony. One thing is sure and that’s that Bellairs felt utterly comfortable in this setting, be it the local library in his youth, the collegiate-sized libraries where he researched class projects and dissertations during his college years, or the Haverhill library to read from his novels to a small crowd of eager children at his feet. To that end, perhaps the Hoosac Library was a combination of the best parts of all the libraries he had passed through and its inhabitants were a kind of people he could recognize and relate to.
Hoosac’s library seems to be the quintessential fun house, full of all the amenities that any budding bibliophile would want. Like most landmarks in Bellairs’s fiction, they all have some real life influence and it stands to reason that the former library in his hometown of Marshall was part of the inspiration for the Hoosac structure.
While the contents of the old Marshall library helped inspire the Hoosac counterpart, architecturally the Hoosac Library greatly resembles the County Courthouse in Winona, Minnesota, with its tower-like corner - plus it’s not but just a few blocks from Levee Park.
For the record, the Winona Public Library is located at 151 West 5th Street, where it's been since 1899.