New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Aurora Free Library

The Aurora Free Library has been a vital community institution since it was built at the end of the 19th century.  Erected in 1899 as a community meeting place, the original building housed a library and town offices on the main floor, a jail cell in the basement, and a 262-seat Victorian theater on the second floor.  The Tudor Revival structure was a gift to the Village of Aurora from Louise Morgan Zabriskie.

The building architecture reflects its multiple community roles.  The cut stone and brickwork on the first level have a business-like quality suitable for town offices and a public library, while the more ornate plaster and exposed-beam construction of the upper façade evoke the English Renaissance.  The interior is remarkable for its woodwork, the colorfully painted theater proscenium, and the elegant glass arts and crafts windows.  The property was donated to the Aurora Free Library Board of Trustees by the Zabriskie family in 1941.

The Aurora Free Library joined the Finger Lakes Library System in 1960 and received its first provisional charter from the State Education Department in February 1981.  The library’s absolute charter, granted in December 1996 and revised in 2009, expanded the service area to the wider Town of Ledyard.  The town offices have since moved out and the jail is no longer in use, but the first floor continues to house the Aurora Free Library and the second floor the Morgan Opera House.

Designed as an acoustically superb performance space, the Morgan Opera House is a delight to experience.  Early performances included productions of local community theater groups, traveling shows, hypnotists, magicians, and silent films with accompanying pianists.  Renovated by a dedicated group of volunteers in 1989, the Morgan Opera House continues to offer a wide variety of cultural events to the community.  All of the administrative work involved in planning, booking, publicizing, and orchestrating around ten annual productions is currently done by volunteers.

The library also hosts a number of performers and popular movie nights in the theater.  After more than a hundred years, the building housing the Aurora Free Library continues to be a cultural and social hub for the community.