Akin Free Library – Pawling, New York - Atlas Obscura

Akin Free Library

The attic and basement house two museums stuffed with oddities like swallowed spoon handles and a shrunken head. 


The Akin Free Library, a gracious stone structure with a cupola lording over a secluded corner of New York, offers two treasure-trove museums crammed with curiosities.

Completed in 1908, the building was a gift from Albert J. Akin, a visionary among the Quakers who settled the area in the early 19th century to fulfill their destinies as “Children of the Light” and “Friends of the Truth.” The Quakers left the Hill by 1885, after a religious schism in the 1850s. Born a Quaker by 1870s Albert was no longer a practicing Quaker. Akin Hill Association was a group of about 13 families led by Altbert Akins that built three buildings. The story of these can be found on the Akin Hall Association website.

In addition to the first-floor library, the building houses two museums full of local history that traces back to the American Revolution. The second floor is the Quaker Hill Museum of Historical Society and the basement houses the Olive M. Gunnison Museum of Natural History.

The curiosities abound. You’ll find oddities like meticulously scribed 19th-century shop ledgers, a first edition of The Hobbit, utopian Quaker pamphlets, a shrunken head, snake skins, hundreds of taxidermy local birds from 200 years ago, Native honed seashells, a giant moa egg, fetuses in jars, and spoon handles swallowed by a local mental patient.

There’s also a mighty clock tower the executive director may let you explore if you ask him kindly. Plus, the patchwork of old farms makes the visit worth it just for the views from the hill.

Know Before You Go

You may arrive unannounced, but best to contact Matthew Hogan for a real visit. (845) 855-5099 Director@AkinFreeLibrary.org

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November 15, 2017

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