Vincentown Library’s Founding

This announcement, celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the Vincentown Library’s founding and dated 1917, is signed by S.S. Herbert, Secretary of the Library Association.

Southampton has had a version of a library since 1867. The first public library in the village of Vincentown was privately owned by John G Herbert, who loaned his books to the residents. He had a select school on Plum Street, which was part of his home. Mr. Herbert was a Yale graduate. He and his daughters ran the school from 1858-1898. (D. Best) 

Sally Stretch Keen

It is time to formally introduce you to our namesake. Sally Stretch Keen was born Sarah Stretch Eayre, to Thomas Wilkins Eayre and Sarah (Sally) Howell (Stretch) Eayre at Grove Hill Farm in Lumberton, October 29, 1841. She married William Hudson Irick on March 10, 1863. The couple lived at his estate, Locust Grove on Retreat Road, which was built 1833. Census details show that W.H. Irick was a master farmer. In 1864, their only child, Mary Stretch Irick, was born. In 1871, William died, leaving his entire estate to Sally. Four years later, Sally married Charles Joseph Keen of Philadelphia. Charles was the half brother of her first husband– Charles and William were both the sons of Matillda Burr. Charles and Mary had no children. Census data shows that Locust Grove was listed as Sally’s until she died, while Charles owned a house on 18th Street in Philadelphia. Charles died March 13, 1904 and is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. Sally lived another 14 years, and died on June 29, 1918 at the age of 76. She is buried next to William at St. Andrew’s Graveyard in Mt. Holly.

Who is this?

Of all the images that we found during our research, this is a favorite. Posed in front of a curtain backdrop, Sally is looking down modestly at a ring on her right hand as a gentleman stands facing her, hands behind back, not touching her and with a look of great affection. On the back was written “Sally Stretch Keen and maybe William Irick?”

Why the question? Sally had two husbands, William Irick from 1863 until he died in 1871 and in 1875 she married William’s half brother, Charles Keen. So who is the gentleman, William or Charles?

The type of printing and the clothing did not clarify matters; both were from the 1860-1870’s period. A photo of William does show he resembles the man in the image. We were unable to find a photo of Charles, however, we did find a copy of his passport. The description also fits this gentleman. Based on their ages and the fact they were closely related, it could be either of them.

Looking at the pose in the photo, we think we may have the answer. We believe this is Charles Keen. And an engagement photo. Notice that Sally is looking serenely at the ring on her right hand. It is a longstanding tradition that widows move the wedding ring from their deceased husband from their left hand to the right. We think her pose appears to be one of modesty and honoring William, her late husband, while Charles looks at her intently, close but not touching, signifying their intent to marry.

Could it be that the image is reversed and she is looking at her left hand? Not likely. Older daguerreotypes created a flipped image, however, this image is printed as a full sized “carte de viste” and would have used a glass plate negative, causing the image to be correct.

We are fortunate to have a few of the letters that Sally saved. One is from Charles and would have been from around the time we are guessing this photograph was taken. It further supports our theory. We will share that next time. Whether this is Willam or Charles, it is abundantly clear that Sally was loved.

In the beginning….

An early sketch of the library done by Stewardson & Page architects. (1921) Note the windows at the front of the building were changed for the final design. The original plan for the library also had a fireplace on the north wall, where the chimney is located. Cope & Stewardson, which became Stewardson & Page, were known for their design of institutional buildings. Much of the Penn campus and other local universities were designed by the firm. They also were architects for many of the city’s elite.…/ar…/25417

Today (January 22) is the birthday of Mary Irick Drexel was born on January 22nd, 1864. Mary was the only child of Sally Stretch (Irick) Keen and William Hudson Irick. She grew up at Locust Grove Farm on Retreat Road. The spirited Mary was educated to be a lady and became a skilled equestrian. She attended Miss Fannie Morrow’s private school in Beverly NJ and completed her education at Patapsco Institute in Ellicott Mills, Maryland. Ladies there were taught courses in botany, chemistry, mathematics, foreign languages and other subjects. Through a classmate, Mary was introduced at a party to George W. Childs Drexel, the youngest son of millionaire A.J. Drexel. She would become a great lady of Philadelphia society, a practical philanthropist and the creator of our library.

2023 marks our 100th anniversary!!!!

100 years of being your community library and we are looking forward to the next 100. Join us on any of our social media pages as we share and celebrate our rich history.

Celebrating in this photograph are 3 people you will get to know much better this year. Far left is Sally Stretch Keen, our namesake. The gentleman next to her is George W. Childs Drexel, her son-in-law. The lady next to him is his wife, Mary Irick Drexel, our benefactor. This photo was taken in Germany in 1900, celebrating the new century.

It’s Official!

IT’S OFFICIAL! We are very pleased to announce that the Sally Stretch Keen Memorial Library is a recipient of a 2022 Preserve New Jersey Historic Preservation Grant Award through the New Jersey Historic Trust. This matching grant will allow us to do much needed work to “seal the envelope” and preserve the library building for future generations. We cannot do our work without a sound building and are fortunate to have a beautiful, historic building in our wonderful town.

We thank the New Jersey Historic Trust for recognizing the significance of our building, our history, and our important role in the community. We are grateful for their support.

It is going to be a busy 100th year! There is fundraising, event planning, tons of paperwork… and the actual preservation work being done Fall 2023! We will keep you updated and share our history as we go along.

If you wish to support our preservation, donations can be made at:

Sally Stretch Keen Memorial Library 100th Anniversary Fund: Donate

or when we see you at the library!

100 Years Later

As 2022 is drawing to a close, we had to point out a neat architectural detail on our building— the downspout with the year 1922 in an Art Nouveau font. Why 1922? The building was designed in 1921 by Stewardson and Page under the direction of Mary Irick Drexel herself. The exterior construction was done in 1922 and the interior finished in 1923, with our dedication in memory of Sally Stretch Keen on June 18th, 1923.

We look forward to celebrating our 100th year in 2023!