This frame library demonstrates the impact of three important forces in late-nineteenth-century, small-town Vermont—fire, women's organizations, and outside patronage. The venerable Danville green, site of the first Caledonia County courthouse, lost its public and commercial buildings, including a library, to fires in 1884, 1889, and 1897. In 1889 Sarah Pope, widow of Charles B. Pope, a Danville native who became a wealthy Chicago businessman, heard how members of the ten-year-old Young Ladies Library Association carried books from the flames in their aprons. She determined to help them rebuild the library and dedicate it to her late husband.
The new structure was designed by Brooklyn architect Marshall J. Morrill and built by local contractor Matthew Caldbeck. Morrill was the descendant of a founding family of Danville and a seasonal resident. Caldbeck, a year-round resident, had reconstructed the nearby Methodist church in 1884. The library is an interesting hybrid. Its form is a miniature version of H. H. Richardson's famous Billings Library in Burlington (CH19.2), but the cross-gabled pavilion contains a Palladian and an oeil-de-boeuf window, the door has a Federal fanlight rather than a round arch, and the apsidal reading room has Ionic pilasters between its windows rather than Romanesque colonnettes. Its eclecticism and Colonial Revival features are paralleled by Morrill's design for the rebuilding in 1895 of the Congregational Church at 87 Hill Street. There he merged a Greek Revival body with Georgian arched lateral windows and a stocky, square corner tower abutted by a porte-cochere—all topped by a Palladian window–shaped belfry under a massive flared roof.