The library began in 1871 as the Warren Public Reading Room Association. It first opened on the second floor of a commercial building at the corner of Main and Market Streets. By 1876, when it had moved to the Cyrus Peabody building, the library had 3,200 volumes.
In 1882, Martha Hail made a substantial contribution to the library on behalf of her husband's name, with the agreement that the name be changed to include her husband's name, George Hail. Other gifts from John Davol and John O. Waterman provided funding for the new library building in 1889.
Designed in the Romanesque Revival style by Providence architectural firm of William Walker and Sons, the building cost just over $16,000 and was made of granite. Hattie Butterworth was the librarian put in charge of the new building.
During the 20th century, leaded glass windows were replaced with plain glass. Woodwork was painted and a dropped ceiling installed. In the late 1970's, a plan for restoration was developed under the direction of Jay Barry, chairman of the Board of Trustees. With some adjustments, the lower level became the children's room. New heating and air conditioning was installed while the lighting, painted walls and woodwork were restored to their original colors and condition.
In 1871, an association for a free reading room and a library was formed. It opened at Pashal Allen's store on the northeast corner of Main and Market Streets. By 1877, the corporate name was the Warren Public Library. After raising funds, a new library was built in 1888. It was designed by William R. Walker & Son of Providence.
George and Martha Hail
George Hail was born in Warren on June 12, 1793. His first wife was Mary Ann Gibbs of Newport, with whom he had several sons and daughters. In August 1861, after the death of his wife, he married Mrs. Martha Arnold. A successful businessman, he returned to Warren after retirement. He died in Providence on December 6, 1873. Martha died in May 1882. She and George had no children. They are buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, RI.
Turn of the century image of the George Hail Free Library