DIXWELL’S LIBRARY OPENED A CENTURY AGO.
The story of Stetson Library—the most recent branch serving the city’s Dixwell and Newhallville neighborhoods—begins 100 years ago.
In 1917, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, a New Haven gun manufacturer which produced the famous “Winchester rifle,” provided the space for a new library: a house at 213 Division Street. This building was inducted as the second branch of the New Haven Free Public Library after the construction of the Fair Haven location earlier that year.
The Dixwell neighborhood library quickly outgrew its first home and, in 1922, the city opened the Dixwell Avenue Branch Library in a brand-new building made possible by funding from the Carnegie Corporation.
In 1941, the Dixwell Avenue Branch Library was re-named and re-dedicated to honor the legacy of Willis K. Stetson, New Haven’s first city librarian. Although its location has changed, the name “Stetson Library” still celebrates the founder of our public library system.
Stetson Library moved again more than two decades later, re-opening in 1969 in a commercial plaza along a busy strip of Dixwell Avenue. Today, Stetson Library is still at this location—200 Dixwell Avenue—constructed more than 50 years ago. Despite renovations conducted in 1997, the library’s footprint has remained relatively unchanged and still needs significant improvement.
STETSON LIBRARY TODAY
Now a century old, the Dixwell neighborhood—and the entire City of New Haven—recognize Stetson Library as a cornerstone of the community. The library boasts one of Connecticut’s most comprehensive collections of African-American literature, as well as a prized series of Harlem Renaissance portraits by renowned photographer Carl Van Vechten.
Stetson Library serves a core community of more than 11,000 residents: approaching 10% of the city’s population. Last year, Stetson saw more than 50,000 visitors and had 2,900 library cardholders.
For more than a decade, Stetson Library has filled the void left behind by the Q House. As the bustling, if not cramped, community center of the neighborhood, Stetson is the go-to place for cultural activities, book clubs, meetings and events, classroom visits, homework help, mentoring programs, summer camps and assistance with job training and readiness.
HISTORY OF THE DIXWELL COMMUNITY Q HOUSE
The Q House, a transformative force in the city’s Dixwell neighborhood, opened its doors in 1924 to provide vital social, educational, recreational and family-life services to the African-American community of New Haven. Q House alumni are ranked among the most prominent and accomplished African-American leaders, both locally and nationally—proudly represented are civil rights workers, artists, athletes, judges, writers and politicians.
Before its closing in 2003, the Q House was tireless in its efforts to improve the lives of New haven citizens with a special emphasis on youth development. The community center offered counseling and programs for troubled youngsters; hosted workshops, field tries and cultural classes; and involved neighborhood children and teens in local projects. Due to budget cuts, the Q House closed after 79 years of distinguished service—and discussion began almost immediately about its reopening and revival.