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Around Florence: Village prepares for month-long observance of library founder, bank president Alfred Lilly’s 200th birthday

KEVIN GUTTING
The Friends of Lilly Library group is planning a series of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Lilly, founder of Lilly Library, and prominent member of the Florence community. Events include a celebration  of his birthday set for Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the library.

KEVIN GUTTING The Friends of Lilly Library group is planning a series of events to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alfred Lilly, founder of Lilly Library, and prominent member of the Florence community. Events include a celebration of his birthday set for Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the library. Purchase photo reprints »

Big plans are in the works to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of the most prominent figures in Florence history, Lilly Library founder Alfred Lilly.

The Friends of Lilly Library are planning a month-long celebration of Lilly this April. Lilly was the first president of the Florence Savings Bank.

Alton Neal, a member of the Friends’ board of directors, said he hopes the upcoming celebration will provide an opportunity to learn more about the man. He noted that Lilly was the superintendent of the Nonotuck Silk Company and director of the Florence Furniture Company, as well as the first president and a founding director of the Florence Savings Bank.

Lilly helped found the library association in 1888, donating the land and $17,500 for books and construction costs. He died in 1890, before the library was complete.

A selection of books from Lilly’s personal collection will be available for in-house examination and reference by the time of the April celebration, library director Mary Ann Tourjee said.

Tourjee said Lilly donated about 400 volumes from his collection to the library. She said about 50 have survived and are being restored by a bookbinding company in Cambridge.

She said the books Lilly donated cover a wide range of topics and interests.

Some of the books that have already been restored include a biography of Sojourner Truth published in 1875, an 1803 reprint of a ninth-century account of Jewish history, a history of Florence published in 1895, and a copy of “Don Quixote” that was published around 1830.

“He was a very well-read man,” Neal said.

In addition to providing some insight into Lilly’s interests, the books offer a look at 19th-century bookbinding and illustration techniques.

Other artifacts from Lilly’s estate will also be on display at the library in April, including pieces of antique china. The original building specifications for the library, which still stands in its original spot, will be on view as well.

Neal said Lilly moved to Florence from Connecticut when he was about 40 to work at Nonotuck Silk. He lived out his remaining years there.

Lilly had a deep and abiding concern for the workforce in Florence, Neal said. In fact, he noted, one of Lilly’s intentions when helping to open the bank was to allow those workers a safe place to keep their wages.

A steering committee has been meeting to determine how best to acknowledge Lilly and his works, Neal said.

Other artifacts from the mid- to late 1800s, including a collection of silk samples and other small pieces from the mills, are being gathered in anticipation of the April celebration honoring Lilly.

Anyone with photos, documents or other historical items that involve Lilly or any of the institutions he was involved with is encouraged to contact the Friends of Lilly Library, Neal said.

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Limited prints up for raffle

Those who were not fortunate enough to win one of the 10 limited prints of the original Corticelli Silk Company logo will have another chance this year.

A run of 25 prints was produced from the original logo, and nine of them were raffled off at the end of 2012.

The remaining prints will be raffled off sometime in the new year, according to the Florence Civic and Business Association.

The original was acquired by the civic group for its history collection in honor of Cary Clark, the longtime co-owner of Florence Village Flowers and former vice president of the association. Clark died in February 2012 at age 56.

Bob Dunn writes a monthly column about Florence. He can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.

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