Founded in 1897, the East Hampton Free Library was granted a charter by New York State and opened in one room of Clinton Hall on Main Street. It was financially supported by individual gifts and a small revenue from non-resident fees. It was staffed by volunteers and managed by a Board of Managers comprised of twelve women.
The Library moved to its present location at the corner of Main Street and Buell Lane in 1912, on land donated by Mary Lorenzo Woodhouse. The architect Aymar Embury designed the building, which was also donated by the Woodhouses. The Library was designed in a neo-Elizabethan style
since many residents of that time wanted East Hampton architecture to conform to that of a pre-seventeenth century Kentish village, similar in looks to the one the original settlers had left behind.
In 1997, the Library’s Centennial Year, an expansion and renovation designed by the noted architect Robert A.M. Stern was completed. Mr. Stern’s plan not only restored the architectural integrity of the original design but also houses an extraordinary modern library and research facility. Computer-equipped study carrels, CD-ROM’s, on-line catalogs, instant Internet access with email facilities are available. The new addition named in honor of John M. Olin, a long-time summer resident, doubled the size of the Library.
In 1930, Morton Pennypacker, Long Island enthusiast, collector, and later historian for both the Town of East Hampton and Suffolk County, presented his personal collection of Long Island books and other materials to the East Hampton Library. It was his belief that people should be able to go to one place to research any topic about Long Island and endeavored to collect everything ever written about the region.
Since then, the Long Island Collection has grown to house over 100,000 items, containing old and rare books, maps, photographs, postcards, atlases, letters, deeds, whaling logs, wills, clippings, genealogies, periodicals, and artifacts relating to the history and people of Long Island. The Long Island Collection is also home to the Thomas Moran Biographical Art Collection, The History Project, Inc., Men’s Lives/Long Island Fisherman Archive, and account books pertaining to the Culper Ring.
In 2007, the Long Island Collection began the process of digitizing its materials, which has aided in the archive’s conservation and description, as well as increased access to patrons locally and worldwide.