Eight years before the Town Hall was built, Julia Brandegee, the younger sister of Sarah Brandegee Barney (a Miss Porter’s School graduate) took a precedent-breaking step. She opened her own library—she, a single Farmington woman, instead of a company of men. Julia was also the aunt of Danford Newton Barney, a successful young businessman. Ann Arcari, Farmington Room librarian and president of the Historical Society, reported in her research that Julia’s motives were not obvious, since the subscription Farmington Library Co. had been securely settled in the town clerk’s office for 27 years. “Perhaps she felt there should be a free library … or that the existing library did little to attract young people, as most titles were ponderous tomes on religion or morals,” Arcari said.
Brandegee first launched her library in a friend’s house with 14 books, geared to the interests of the Boys Club. Before long she owned 400 books and bought an old shoemaker’s shop on Farmington Avenue (opposite High Street).