Bernardsville Public Library has a long history that dates back to the late 1840’s when a lending library was established in the Methodist Church of Vealtown (later renamed Bernardsville). The Bernardsville Library Association was incorporated in 1902, and in 1903 purchased and enlarged the old Vealtown Tavern on Morristown Road, an inn which had once served as a stopover for travelers and revolutionary war soldiers. The building was transformed into the town’s new library, open to the public, but operated as an “association” library, meaning that the association of trustees owned the building and its books, and was responsible for its funding.
The gray building that housed the Bernardsville Public Library for over ninety years was originally called the Vealtown Tavern. Constructed in the 1700’s, the tavern was a stopover for the weary and thirsty, an inn for passersby, and, for a time, served the officers and men of the Continental Army. The ownership of the tavern changed many times, but the lore of the sturdy clapboard building on Morristown Road has endured through more than two centuries.
Over the years, the historic building, one of the oldest in Somerset County, was expanded several times. In 1932, a gift from John A Roebling allowed for expansion and renovation of the facilities. Another addition, which was funded by the Association, added the two-story wing, the downstairs meeting room, and renovated the children’s room and the quiet reading room. It was dedicated on May 17, 1970.
In 1978, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The same year, Bernardsville residents voted in a referendum to establish a municipal free public library. Two years later, after another addition and renovation, both the building and property were donated to the borough by the Library Association which then shifted its focus to fundraising, public relations, and volunteer work.
Plans for constructing a new, modern library building were first discussed in the mid-1980s. When the borough purchased land on Anderson Hill Road in the early 1990’s, the Association began a large fund drive. More than $2 million were raised for construction and furniture, and helped make the beautiful building you see here today a reality.
The original Bernardsville Public Library was located in the heart of Bernardsville’s business district at 2 Morristown Road (Route 202). The current Bernardsville Public Library is located at 1 Anderson Hill Road, just around the corner from the original building.
Many thanks to the members of the Local History Room for supplying us with this brief history of our historic building.
For a succinct history of the borough of Bernardsville, please link to this History of Bernardsville page, on the Bernardsville Borough site.