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.
Soon after her death, library trustees started looking for an old house to buy in town, so that Hudson’s museum and small library would have their own building. By coincidence, the old house where Mrs. Babcock had been born on the corner of East Main and Aurora became available. The library board purchased the house and began the renovating it. The library moved into its new home in late 1924 and opened for business on June 1, 1925 under the guidance of the organization’s first professional librarian, Mrs. Helen Evans Miller.
Mrs. Miller continued in her position until 1928 when she was succeeded by Miss Helen Watterson, who served until her death in 1930. Her successor, Elizabeth Taylor, began steering the Hudson Library and Historical Society towards modern library service. Mrs. Taylor oversaw the library tripling its collection and almost doubling its circulation.
She was succeeded in 1940 by Marjorie Bolton Clelland. Under Mrs. Clelland’s administration, the library began rural bookmobile service and it continued to grow in collections and services. When she left in 1947, Miss Lois Reed was hired as Librarian and Curator.
It was during Miss Reed’s tenure that the library completed its first major expansion with the construction of a new wing, attached to the east side of the Baldwin House, in 1954. Miss Reed retired in 1956,and was replaced by Mary Clark, who left in 1958. Her replacement, Dr. Kenneth Ames, oversaw the Library’s 50th Anniversary celebration in 1960.
The following year, Virginia O. Grazier became Librarian and Curator and oversaw the next facility expansion in 1963, when the old library building reached its final dimensions. Mrs. Grazier also worked to revitalize the library’s role in local history.
Thomas L. Vince became Librarian and Curator in 1969. Through his efforts, the Hudson Library and Historical Society became a research center for those studying famed Abolitionist and Hudson resident, John Brown. He also oversaw interior renovation in 1980, 1989 and 1995. In 1986, a new archival facility was also built.
In November of 1986, the Library became the first library in Summit County to have a functional computerized circulation system and a computerized public catalog.
E. Leslie Polott became Director in 1996. Under her stewardship, the library’s circulation figures would reach over a half-million in 2003.
In 1997 the library introduced free internet services to the community and many new programs and services. In 1998, Polott oversaw the renovation of its lower level.