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Some memories about the Yellow Barn:
- from David: "The Yellow Barn was the logo for the Library for many years. It appeared on the letterhead, purchase orders, tote bags, and on tee shirts. So many of our patrons rescued the Barn from demolition: Ann Demkin and Dorothy Pernell are the two people who standout in my mind as working toward the preservation of this historical building."
- from Eleanor: "
The Magic of the Yellow Barn
The book, How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo has been touted by the New York Times Book Review but in Riverhead, we have our own little children’s secret- The Yellow Barn!
The Yellow Barn located opposite our library, houses hundreds of children’s books. Our volunteers are a fund of information and are always happy to help to choose age -appropriate books for children to enjoy. So, when you visit, do not hesitate to ask questions. So moms and dads, if you have never visited our prized book store, plan to join us and browse- you will be pleasantly surprised.
Its doors are generally
straight and rigid
As they open, a small
light brightens the vestibule
A glimpse beyond promises
As you step inside, this
World whispers its secrets.
Entering its inner sanctum
untold enlightenment is in your grasp.
Where is this phenomenon?
Between the covers of
- from Laurel: " Here's what I have recalled about the "Yellow Barn" I put the phrase in quotes because some people have insisted that "it is not a barn; it is a carriage house." Call it what you will. A well-loved Riverhead landmark, the library's "Yellow Barn" was originally constructed as the place to store the Perkins family's horse drawn carriages, and later motor cars. it is an attractive building, yellow, with a gray Mansard roof. Its architecture echoes that of the family's home which wasn't suitable for use as a library, even if there had been extensive and expensive remodeling. Helen Hannah, then president of the library's board of trustees, suggested the carriage house building be saved. It could be used for storage, she said, and it’s a reminder of the imposing Perkins home. Mrs. Hannah's husband William installed the signpost officially directing people to the "Yellow Barn."
- The Friends of the Library had been holding fund-raising sales of donated gently used books for several years and it was clear that the Barn was an ideal space to store the donations as they were received. After a short time, it was logical to hold the sales there as well. Library custodian, Mr. Philip Gray, devised a plan for book shelves on the outer walls of the Barn that could be covered by removable wallboard panels. Mrs. Elizabeth Overton, the enthusiastic and talented director of the Library, was inspired by those blank walls - perfect for displaying works by local artists' (a number of whom were happy to contribute shows). The Friends also sponsored an annual Photography Show which I believe is still being held every Autumn. An "Under Twenty-one" Art Show was presented with the co-operation of the local high schools.
- With all the activities inside the Barn, the patio outside the building was also used. Constructed of paving stones that were previously Riverhead sidewalks, the patio was used as an outdoor stage by the Riverhead Summer Theater Workshop, and for folk music concerts on summer evenings.
- During summer vacations, the library sponsored a bus to bring students to the library for their weekly reading materials. Before returning to their pick-up locations, children from third grade up were invited to a story hour in the barn, where the YA librarian shared ghost stories and folk tales.
- Sometime during Kathy Richter's administration there was a fire in the Barn, but because the books were packed so tightly against the walls, little damage was done.
- So – here’s what else I recall about the “Barn” These recollections aren’t in chronological order – just as they have surfaced in my memory.
- While Frances White was president of the Friends, several innovative fundraising efforts were carried out. One was a “Silver Tea” a true English summertime tea party and the occasion for the purchase of the glass lilies from The Silverbrook Glass Blowing Factory in Flanders. (I believe the name was Silverbrook Art Glass, and the Friends have used those lilies for centerpieces every time they’ve hosted a dinner.)
- The other innovation was the start of progressive holiday dinners, in which participants went from one house to another dining on a different course at each home, with the appropriate wine included. These were enormously popular, but were cancelled after a few years because (1) there were no more volunteers to open their homes. And (2) there were concerns on the Board of trustees about the amount of drinking and driving and the Friends’ and the Library’s liability.
- Frances was an inveterate and successful fundraiser. Her husband later took a position with (I believe) NASA in New Mexico; and they left Riverhead.
- During the time Barbe Bonjour was the library director, there were no volunteers to organize what was then still the annual used book sale, and Helen Drielak who’d owned and managed a local business was invited to take on the task, for a small salary. She refused the salary, but was pleased to run the sale. She soon decided that a more continuous book sale would net the Friends more income, and I believe fundraising is still proceeding in this way. A volunteer from Southampton agreed to check and sell “rare” books, for a percentage of the profit. I can’t tell you who or how that worked; I only know that it was a relief for our volunteers not to have to worry that they might be letting a treasure go for pennies "
Hardwood, shingles, doors, windows and plenty of sweat went into my construction. John and Marion Perkins of Riverhead needed a carriage house and so in 1873 I was born onto the land at 330 Court Street. They filled me with cheerful carriages attached to long-tailed, spirited, powerful creatures that whinnied their way into my heart. But in a blink, my majestic, galloping friends were replaced by four-wheeled wonders with churning engines that refused to talk to me. But I puffed up my trusses and carried on.
Then, Clara, the youngest Perkins daughter, claimed me as her workshop. She swung my doors open and shone a light on me again, filling me with purpose. I became a happy refuge for Clara, who mastered the four-wheeled steel creatures and paraded them around Riverhead, filling them with furniture that she’d stash in my nooks and crannies. Clara hummed to me as she worked, stripping old wood and applying new finish to her furniture. Together, we gave new life to old things.
But Clara grew old and bent, like me. I creaked and moaned as she stuffed my eaves with her handiwork. Then, one day, she disappeared forever. I was alone, my insides gathering dust. The other Perkins’ vanished too. All that remained was me - and the beat up Victorian house that was my family’s home. That old structure swayed and sagged and was carted off. My rafters rattled in fear. I tried desperately to look young and fresh again. Would I be next?
Time passed and a shiny new building was born beside me. The humans packed in, scurrying to and fro, leaving with small towers of bound paper carefully cradled in their arms. They called these things “books.” The humans loved and valued them. I wondered and dreamed about what it would feel like to be filled with these adored objects, to have purpose again.
Dreaming turned to dread the day machines came for me. I groaned and creaked as they hoisted me up and began to move me. I was sure I was on my way to disappearing like the old house, like Clara, like the whole Perkins family. To my surprise, I was carefully placed in a special spot, facing east, into the morning sun, closer to the new place the humans loved. They gifted me a new yellow coat of paint! The humans from the big building brought lots of people to see me. Children came to pet the animals that would visit me. Families came to watch theater productions performed under my roof! They planted gardens around me! Artists hung their paintings on my walls! I was so happy!!
Then the best thing happened, the humans filled me with books! And I knew that if books lived in me I’d be loved forever.
Now that I am nearing 150-years-old my friends have begun to worry. They want to make sure “The Yellow Barn” – as the locals lovingly call me – serves Riverhead forever. They hope to shore up my bones and give me fresh coats of paint so I can continue to serve the community I love.
So, if you can spare a little to help a lot, this old Yellow Barn tips its rafters to you in thanks and with love.
Our beloved Yellow Barn is in need of restoration and repair. The barn was originally the Perkins’ Family Carriage House built circa 1873. It was given landmark status by the Town of Riverhead in 2017.
The Perkins House is part of the founding history of Riverhead Town.
John Perkins came to America in about 1828. He met his wife Marion and bought the mill at Upper Mills from the Albertson’s and settled in Riverhead. He operated a woolen and fulling mill, manufacturing wool goods and stocking yarns with a specialty in waterproof fabric. John Perkins died in 1866 and his sons, John R. and J. Henry took over his business. J. Henry managed the family’s store and John R. managed the factory. In 1888, J. Henry Perkins started a hydro-electric project, converting waterpower from the Peconic River to electrical energy to provide lights for his neighbors. The Perkins Family also had owned a button factory as well as a chocolate factory. In 1929, The Riverhead Hotel Association opened the Hotel Henry Perkins to honor J. Henry Perkins and in that same year, construction of the Suffolk County Historical Society building began. Both the Suffolk County Historical Society and The Riverhead Free Library properties were gifts from the Perkins Family.
The Perkins Carriage House also known as the Yellow Barn is currently being used by The Friends of the Riverhead Free Library for the sale of gently used books to support the library and its programs. I am sure that many of you have fond memories of visiting the barn to purchase great books at pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, the barn is currently closed because it is in desperate need of repair and restoration.
The Yellow Barn is a gem in our community. Please help the Library restore the barn to its former glory and make it a safe and inviting place for you to visit. We are asking for your support by giving a donation to the Riverhead Free Library for the Yellow Barn. Funds will be used to restore and maintain the Yellow Barn for future generations.