In the 1890’s, George Hammond, manager of the Forest Paper Company, organized the Antiquarian Association in order to purchase the Old Baptist Church on the Hill and to establish a library and museum. Known as the Hillside Library, it was open to the public on Saturday afternoons.
Joseph Edward Merrill, born in Yarmouth in 1832, attended North Yarmouth Academy and Bowdoin College. In the 1850’s he entered the book business in Boston. It was his long, cherished purpose to provide Yarmouth with a public library worthy of the town and its history. Following the turn of the century, plans were made for a new town library to be built in Brick-Yard Hollow on land donated to the town by S.D. Warren and John Coombs.
The building was dedicated in 1905 as a memorial to Joseph Merrill’s parents, Ezekiel Merrill and Sarah Hobart Lewis. Many books from the earlier Hillside Library were included in the original Merrill Memorial Library collection along with Joseph Merrill’s personal collection.
The architect for the building was A. W. Longfellow, nephew of the poet, and senior architect for the Boston and Pittsburgh firm that designed some of the larger Carnegie library projects. At the time that Merrill Memorial library was being planned, Longfellow was working alone and designing buildings for Harvard University and Radcliffe College. This academic building style is the architectural source for Merrill Memorial Library.
In 1988, a wing was added to the rear of the original building. The addition, designed by the Portland architectural firm Stevens, Morton, Rose and Thompson, doubled the size of the library. During the 1990’s, a landscape plan for the area surrounding the new entrance was created by Landscape Designer Rosemary Whitney. Development of the library gardens and a small park has continued into the new century.
Supported by the Town of Yarmouth and the Joseph E. Merrill Fund, the Library is a free community service. The management and control of the land and the building remains in the hands of the citizen Board of Trustees.