Molly Adkins Brown House:  Milford’s First Library

Terry RogersCulture, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

Mollie Adkins Brown sits in the first Milford library, located in the rear of her home (Photo courtesy of Milford Museum)

Now owned by Dan and Rhonda Bond, the stately home located at 106 Northwest Front Street, not only has a rich history of its own, but it also has strong ties to Milford’s history as well. The main portion of the home was built by William Sorden in 1806 after he purchased the lot from Joseph Oliver, one of Milford’s founders.

Sorden was a merchant in Milford and members of his family lived in the home from the time it was constructed until around 1820. Various families lived in the home until 1924 when it was purchased by Leonard Adkins, an officer of the Milford branch of the Commercial Bank of Delaware.

Originally, the home was a simple center-hall, two-story wood frame house on a brick foundation and covered in weatherboard. Several additions were added over the years, including a porch along the east façade which was set off from the main structure. Around 1891, double cross gables with lancet windows were added and an additional porch constructed around 1910. A one story addition was added between 1919 and 1930, a section of the home that may have, at one time, been a rear porch but had already been converted to a room.

“I, Molly Adkins Brown, am the founding mother of Milford’s public library,” a document stored in the basement of the Milford Museum states. “After the death of my husband, Edward, I returned to Milford and took up residence in my childhood home at 106 N.W. Front Street, known as the Adkins house. My husband, being a scholar, had a valuable library and I also had many books. It seemed a pity for this collection to be used only by me. At that time, Milford had no public library, so I decided to share my precious books with the children of Milford.”

Brown continued, pointing out that the library was in a room at the rear of the house with an outside entrance from a side porch. Children entered the gate under an arched, vine-covered trellis, down a path to the steps.

“There were fixed hours when the library was open, always after school and on Saturday,” Brown wrote. “I was the librarian, the story-teller, and the instructor in how to handle books. My young borrowers were required to have clean hands, to wipe their feet before entering and to cover with brown paper, supplied by me, a book being taken out. The children came, they browsed to their hearts’ content before deciding which books they wanted to take home. Oh yes, the children took good care of the books, because they considered it a privilege to visit “Miss Mollie Brown’s library” and to be permitted to borrow her books.”

When Brown sold the home and decided to leave Milford, she stored her books in the town. At that time, the Community Building, which became known as the Old Firehouse, was under construction. Brown asked that a room be set aside for a public library. When the building was completed in 1926, she returned to Milford to catalog and set up the books that had been in storage. In addition to the books from Brown’s collection, 2,300 more were added from the collection of her cousin, Mrs. George S. Adkins.

“During this time, I called upon prominent people to attend an organizational meeting,” Brown continued. “It was well attended, and plans were made for fund-raising, for securing state aid and officers were elected. Miss Edna Barker was the first librarian. In 1930, Miss Edith Simpson was appointed her assistant and became librarian in 1931. She carried on my work in the spirit fo sharing books as friends. It is a pleasure for me to watch, from my frame on the wall, the service rendered from such a small beginning.”

Brown passed away at her home in Drexel Hill on March 1, 1944, at the age of 87. The home where she established the first Milford Library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Sorden/Adkins House. After purchasing the home, the Bond’s renovated the entire structure.

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