A Brief History of the
John Jermain Memorial Library

John Jermain Memorial Library Front View

Sag Harbor's beautiful John Jermain Memorial Library was built in 1910 by Mrs. Russell Sage in memory of her grandfather, Major John Jermain, and presented as a gift to the people of the Village of Sag Harbor. John Jermain served in the Westchester Militia during the American Revolution. Following the War he moved to Sag Harbor and married Margaret Pierson of Bridgehampton. Their daughter, Margaret Pierson Jermain, was the mother of Margaret Olivia Slocum who married Russell Sage, a financier.  The desirable property on which the Library is built was bought at a cost of $10,000, and is directly across from Mrs. Sage's then summer home on Main Street. At that time, it was the highest price ever paid for a piece of real estate in Sag Harbor. Augustus N. Allen designed the building, in 1910, in the Classical Revival style. C.A. Folke of New York was named the superintendent of the building operations when work began.

A pediment and four impressive stone Doric columns adorn the front of the fifty-foot by fifty-foot brick structure, constructed at a cost of $70,000. The trim and base of the building are done in stone. The stone lintels of the windows are designed with the Greek key pattern. Other architectural details include wreaths, torches and egg and dart molding. These types of architectural details can be found in other buildings in Sag Harbor, but are usually worked in plaster or wood. In the interior, fluted stone columns, and lintels ornamented with medallions form the octagonal third floor reading room. Bronze torches light the entryways and vestibules. A winding marble staircase leads up to this room that is crowned by a spacious brick, copper and stained glass dome rising sixty feet above the ground. The dome, constructed by the R. Guastavino Company, is one of the more than 1000 they built, including those at the library of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and the National Museum in Washington, DC.

John Jermain Reading Room, 1911

The Library is a historic landmark in the Historic District of the Village of Sag Harbor, NY, listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It formally opened for inspection and the signing of applications on June 18, 1910. Miss Cora H. Bunker, Librarian, was on hand to acquaint the public with the new building and its contents. On October 10, 1910 the doors opened with 5,000 volumes available. The opening ceremonies took place on October 13th with Mrs. Sage, Olive Pratt Young, the new librarian, and the staff present. Reverend William T. Edds of the Sagg Harbour Presbyterian Church offered a short dedicatory prayer. Two hundred and fifty books were checked out on the first day, with Mrs. Sage having the honor of taking out the first book. Within a month, 1248 Sag Harbor residents were registered borrowers. Circulation for the first year was 51,755 items.

On June 17, 1912, two years after the opening, a deed of Trust was executed by Mrs. Sage in which the Library, its grounds and equipment were deeded to a body of Trustees under the laws of New York State. The Library was permanently endowed by Mrs. Sage that it might forever be secured to the people of Sag Harbor and vicinity. Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, Sag Harbor's greatest benefactor, also provided the Village with Pierson High School and Mashashimuet Park. She also contributed generously to various local churches and organizations, gifting Sag Harbor with a total of between $300,000 and $400,000.