On July 7, 1897 Rev. P.S. Pratt welcomed Manchester’s “many lovers of good books” who had gathered to celebrate the opening of Mark Skinner Library. The library was celebrated as a “new and elegant edifice” which would be “made accessible to all who are associated in the various relations of social and civil life.” It was built by Frances Skinner Willing in memory of her father, Mark Skinner, a Chicago judge and philanthropist who was born in Manchester and returned to spend every summer here. Mark Skinner’s father, Richard Skinner, had been a Vermont governor and chief justice.

Mrs. Willing is noted by librarian and historian Paula Watson as one of the “Lady Carnegies” of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — women philanthropists who had “strong interests in reading and literature and personally empowering experiences with libraries.” Watson writes that women’s library philanthropy was extensive, but has gone largely unrecognized. Mrs. Willing also provided an endowment of $40,000 to provide for the future of the library. (Paula Watson, “Carnegie Ladies, Lady Carnegies,”Libraries and Culture 31:1, 1996)

In 1964 the original 1897 library building was enlarged with an addition that doubled library space. The new wing added an expanded circulation desk, open reading room with high ceilings and large windows, and a basement meeting room.

For most of its history Mark Skinner Library was governed and operated as a private library. In 2003 it was converted to Manchester’s public library, supported partly by taxpayer funds and partly through endowment and fund-raising.


The Mark Skinner Library is committed to serving the life-long journey of learning by providing information and opportunities for personal enrichment and enjoyment to people of all ages in our community.