Caroline Baldwin was born on December 17, 1841 in the house her father built at the corner of East Main Street and Aurora Street in 1834. She was the youngest of the two daughters of Frederick and Salome Bronson Baldwin (an older sister, Maria Louisa, had died in infancy). Within a few years of Caroline’s birth, the family sold the house and moved to a large farm on Main Street, south of town.
After attending a girl’s school in Painesville, Caroline settled in with her parents at their farm. Mr. and Mrs. Baldwin both died in 1881, leaving Caroline alone. Three years later, at age 43, she married an old family friend, Perry H. Babcock, who had been widowed a few years before.
Perry was a businessman in Cleveland, heading up the firm of Babcock, Hurd, & Co., which had been started by his father-in-law, Hopson Hurd Jr. of Aurora.
Caroline moved into Perry’s mansion on Euclid Avenue, and spent the next thirteen years in Cleveland, still keeping ownership of the family farm. While in Cleveland, she was active in the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Western Reserve Historical Society.
When her husband died in Cleveland in 1897, Caroline sold the mansion and moved back to the farm in Hudson. She was displeased with the direction in which the community was moving. After Western Reserve College had moved to Cleveland in 1882, nothing seemed to go right for Hudson. In 1890, and in 1892, there were major fires: the former destroying the industrial district and the latter the business block. There were bank failures throughout the first decade of the 20th Century, and, for Caroline, the most devastating blow came when, in 1903, Western Reserve Academy went out of business.
Citizens of Hudson had depended on the library at Western Reserve Academy as their source for books, and other information. With the Academy closed, Hudson was without a means of self-education. When noted Hudson author and scholar M.C. Read died in 1902, Mrs. Babcock also realized that Hudson’s historical legacy was passing away with the older generation, and that valuable documents and artifacts, such as those in Read’s private collection, might be lost to Hudson.
She contacted her childhood friend, James W. Ellsworth, who was also developing plans to revitalize Hudson, and together, began work to create a library and historical society to serve Hudson. The Articles of Incorporation of the Hudson Library and Historical Society were signed on October 29, 1910, with Mrs. Babcock as the first President.
James Ellsworth offered the library space in his newly-created “Club House” which is now Hayden Hall at Western Reserve Academy (at the corner of College and Aurora Streets). With Grace Seidel serving as the first Librarian (a volunteer position), the Hudson Library began business as a private subscription library.
In 1919, the Hudson Library and Historical Society merged with the library at the recently reopened Western Reserve Academy, an arrangement that remained in place until 1924. Mrs. Babcock died on February 28, 1921. In her will, she left an endowment of over $100,000 to the Hudson Library and Historical Society, the main purpose of which was to maintain a free series of lectures called the “Baldwin-Babcock Lecture Series,” which continues to this day.
Papers of Caroline Baldwin Babcock, civic leader of Hudson, Ohio, and founder of Hudson Library & Historical Society
Records documenting the history, growth, planning, administration, finances and programming of the library from its founding in 1910 to today.
Hudson Library & Historical Society timeline (coming soon!)