Bethel Public Library
(Seth Seelye House)

Methodist Church
Methodist Church


Built: 1842
Photo: c.1910

On Monday, November 8, 1909, a meeting was held to consider the establishment of a free public library in Bethel. Bylaws were adopted which established that there would be a public library to “be free to all inhabitants of this town.”

The library opened in one room over A. J. Lynch’s business on Greenwood Avenue, helped by $2,000 bequeathed from Maria Parloa, whose own books started the collection. Later, it was moved to four rented rooms at 190 Fountain Place (now P.T. Barnum Square). In August 1912, plans were begun to purchase property from Ursula Benedict, to house the Library on what is now Greenwood Avenue. Then in 1914, the Seelye homestead was presented to the town of Bethel. The home was built by Seth Seelye, a local merchant, and Bethel’s original First Selectman. Three of Seelye’s sons became ministers and two of them also became college presidents.

Seth Seelye was also the citizen who took P.T. Barnum to court for libel over Barnum’s newspaper, The Herald of Freedom...but that, is a whole other story...