‘Home away from home’: North Amherst Library officially dedicated, as anonymous donor of $1.7M revealed

At a ribbing-cutting ceremony on May 2, the public found out that resident Hilda Greenbaum, seated, was the donor who funded the $1.7 million North Amherst Library project.

At a ribbing-cutting ceremony on May 2, the public found out that resident Hilda Greenbaum, seated, was the donor who funded the $1.7 million North Amherst Library project. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting took place on Thursday for the completed renovation of the North Amherst Library.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting took place on Thursday for the completed renovation of the North Amherst Library. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

At a ribbing-cutting ceremony Thursday to officially mark the reopening of the North Amherst Library, the public found out for the first time that resident Hilda Greenbaum, at right at a groundbreaking, was the anonymous donor who funded the $1.7 million project. Standing with Greenbaum is Barbara Puffer-Garnier.

At a ribbing-cutting ceremony Thursday to officially mark the reopening of the North Amherst Library, the public found out for the first time that resident Hilda Greenbaum, at right at a groundbreaking, was the anonymous donor who funded the $1.7 million project. Standing with Greenbaum is Barbara Puffer-Garnier. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2024 9:24 PM

AMHERST — An avid reader throughout her life, who often brought her three children to the North Amherst Library as they were growing up, Hilda Greenbaum saw the need to improve the 1893 building to ensure it would continue to serve future generations, according to her son.

“North Amherst Library has been a home away from home,” said Joel Greenbaum, speaking at a ceremonial ribbon-cutting last Thursday afternoon, outside the 8 Montague Road building.

The May 2 event was an occasion to recognize and thank Greenbaum and her family for making what had been an anonymous $1.7 million donation to fund the expansion of the 1,080-square-foot, town-owned building, which reopened to patrons earlier this year. The project added 1,200 square feet of space for restrooms, a chairlift between the original floor and the addition, and a community room that can accommodate 40 to 45 people.

While Hilda Greenbaum took ill and couldn’t be at the ceremony, Joel Greenbaum said the rejuvenated library exemplifies everything about her, from the concept of historic preservation to the gardens that surround the building, joking that all that was needed to make it like home was a few bird feeders.

He recalled his parents, as well, along with his sisters Rachel and Jessie, frequenting the library over the years. The donation also represents, he said, the generosity of his family’s time and service to the town, where both of his parents were Town Meeting members, Hilda Greenbaum continues to serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and her late husband Louis Greenbaum was an elected member of the Jones Library trustees.

The event was festive, including a performance by the North Amherst String Band, and was being recorded so Hilda Greenbaum could enjoy it.

“She said the show must go on,” Joel Greenbaum said.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman recounted the process of receiving the gift, with Hilda Greenbaum telling him she was to make the donation, and then beginning the process that led to a Town Council vote to accept the gift and subsequent approvals of plans by Kuhn Riddle Architects and construction by Wright Builders.

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Bockelman said he offered praise to Greenbaum, but couldn’t divulge her name publicly until this week. “I had the honor of being the first person to say thank you to Hilda,” Bockelman said.

The library has been open for several weeks, but the community room will get its first use when Cathy Schoen and Freke Ette, the District 1 councilors, hold a district meeting there May 19 at 3 p.m.

Others also spoke

“This beautiful gift you’ve given North Amherst is just amazing,” said Council President Lynn Griesemer. “Hilda, we wish you well.”

State Rep. Mindy Domb said Greenbaum represents a role model of someone who gets things done for the community.

North Amherst resident Mary Sayer said Greenbaum, who she calls the “fairy Godmother,” understands the magic of libraries, and that the gift extends the life of a building and opens it up for other uses.

Others who were thanked included Molly Turner, a former president of the Jones Library trustees who was in attendance, and the late Pat Holland, another former president of the trustees, who both joined Hilda Greenbaum in advocating for the branch library at Town Meeting. Several councilors and current trustees and former branch librarians were on hand to cut the ribbon.

Among other guests were Nancy Hankinson, a Scituate, Rhode Island resident and the great-granddaughter of Charles Henry Haskins, who built the library. Hankinson said the builders did a reasonably good job of matching the addition to the original and she appreciates that the library will continue to be part of the community of the village center. Hankinson brought historic photos that were displayed inside the building showing the evolution of North Amherst center and her family’s involvement in it, including grandfather Henry Haskins being the architect for the former North Amherst School.