A Brief History of the Noyes Library

Situated on a small triangular piece of land in the historic part of Kensington, Maryland is a small, single-story building that looks like an old house. Certainly a homey place, this building is the oldest purpose-built library in the Washington, D.C. area and is one of the few libraries in the nation dedicated to serving the needs of young children. The Noyes Library for Young Children.

The Early Days of Noyes Library

The story of the Noyes (pronounced “noise”) Library begins in 1890 when Brainard Warner purchased a large tract of land in Montgomery County. At the time, the area now known as Kensington was called Knowles Station due, in part, to the recently constructed Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad running through it. But after a visit to England, and particularly the area of Kensington Park in London, Mr. Warner decided to rename his summer home Kensington Park, as well.

Mr. Warner imagined his new summer refuge as a model Victorian community and, therefore, needed three specific amenities: a church, a library, and a newspaper. The church, Warner Memorial Presbyterian, named for Mr. Warner’s father, is still standing and can be seen from Connecticut Avenue. The newspaper, The Montgomery Press, was active until 1935 when Cornelius Clum, the editor and publisher, died. The library is the current Noyes Library for Young Children.

Library Branch Image

The Noyes Library first opened to the public on January 10, 1893. The library is named for Crosby Noyes, who at the time of the library’s founding, was the editor and publisher of the Washington Evening Star, and the library’s first donor.  Mr. Noyes donated books from his personal library, as well as books the Washington Evening Star reviewed in its columns.  While the Noyes Library originally was operated by the Noyes Library Association, the majority of the funding came from Mr. Noyes, who continued to add to the collection and provide small subsidies.

Each evening, the library was open to the public with the help of volunteers and a poorly paid local librarian. The reading rooms were free to use, but borrowing privileges required an annual membership fee of $1.00 (estimated to be around $33.00 today). The Noyes family continued to support the library after Mr. Crosby’s death in 1908.

In this way, the Noyes Library continued to function as a subscription library and gathering place for the community until 1951, when the libraries in Montgomery County began to band together as the nascent Montgomery County Public Libraries (MCPL). By joining MCPL, Noyes Library would have access to County funding and wouldn’t be reliant on its own forms of fundraising. The agreement the Noyes Library Association signed with the County stipulated that the collection and services would remain within the corporate limits of Kensington or would be returned to the Association. Nevertheless, soon after joining MCPL, the collection at Noyes was merged with the collections at the Garrett Park and Rocking Horse branches. When the Kensington Park Community Library opened in 1969, the Noyes Library closed for renovation. In 1970 and before reopening to the public, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) designated Noyes a historic site, ensuring its protection for generations to come.

When Noyes reopened in 1972, it was rechristened Noyes Children’s Library. As a library dedicated solely to children, Noyes’ mission was to develop child-focused programs, work regularly with special needs children, reach out to children who often cannot attend library programs, and work with parents and educators to further early childhood literacy.

When budget cutbacks threatened the closure of the Noyes Children’s Library in 1991, a group of concerned local citizens came together to found the Noyes Library Foundation to support the operating costs of the library. This public-private partnership continued this mission until 1999 when Noyes began receiving full County funding once again. The Foundation continues to support the library, most notably in its capital fundraising campaign called “Make More Noyes.”

In 2001, the library’s name was changed to its current incarnation, Noyes Library for Young Children. The interior space was renovated, adding carpeting and creating a more open floor plan. In 2017, Noyes was designated to host a new library collection known as The Jan Jablonski Early Literacy Training Center collection. Named for Noyes Library Foundation founding member and staunch early literacy advocate Jan Jablonski, this special collection is available to the public and focuses on resources for adults — educators and all who wish to further the cause of promoting life-long literacy.

In 2022, the Noyes Library Foundation reached its funding goal as part of its Make More Noyes capital funding campaign. This renovation of the Noyes Library for Young Children will include digging out the cellar to create a basement level with programming space, converting the attic into a dedicated staff area, and adding an elevator to make the building more accessible.