On August 1st, 1826, Charles Kelsey, Albert Wilcox, Joel Ives, Alfred E. Ives, George S. Gunn, Eastman S. Minor, James F. Babcock, & Edward W. Andrews began the Apprentices’ Literary Association (A.L.A.) in the home of Albert Wilcox on August 1st, 1826 – the genesis of the Institute Library.
The group met about twice a week – gathering at the homes of the different members – sharing books and reading original compositions. By mid-October, the group secured a room the Glebe Building on the corner of Chapel and Church Streets.
The library moved homes a several times within the first few years. On May 1st, 1834 the library (known as the Young Mechanics Institute as of 1827) signed a two year lease in “Mr. Marble’s Building” (Centennial Report, 5) on Church Street, which cost $50 a year payable quarterly. After those two years, the library moved to a few more different buildings in the Church / Chapel Streets area. The Institute’s 9th move since its birth was to a building all its own that it had built in 1856 – the Palladium Building on Orange Street. For one reason or another – war or recklessness – the Institute was forced to sell the building in 1864 and it moved back to the Phoenix Building on Chapel Street.
The Institute’s current home at 847 Chapel Street is the library’s 13th home. The land was purchased in 1878 and construction was completed that same year.
The City Directory from 1848 is the oldest directory the library has although the first New Haven directory was put out in 1839. Mr. Albert Wilcox’s home address & occupation are listed in this directory – assuming he didn’t move in the 22 years between the Institute’s first meeting in his home and the publication of this directory – the Institute’s very first home was at 59 Chapel Street.