The town of Hampstead has a history of supporting libraries. Dr. Josiah C. Eastman, in 1849, representing Hampstead in the Legislature, introduced a bill entitled "An act providing for the establishment of public libraries" which was signed by the governor shortly thereafter. This act provided that any town in this state at any legal meeting may raise and appropriate monies for the establishment and maintenance of a public library. It also stated that any such library establishment would be free to every inhabitant of that town.
In 1797 Hampstead had a "social library". Later the Sunday School Library at the Congregational Church was the source of fictional reading for both children and adults. Nearly fifty years after Dr. Eastman introduced his bill Hampstead acted to establish a town library. The beginning of the public library came when Nelson Ordway offered to give $1,000 for the purchase of books if the town would furnish suitable housing and caring of them. The first Hampstead Public Library was opened in 1888 in the brick house on Main Street opposite Heath Road. Willard F. Williams was the owner of the house at the time and he was appointed the first librarian. A branch of the library was maintained in East Hampstead for forty years under the care of Mrs. Mary B. Darbe.
Gifts by Mr. Ordway and his son Henry C. Ordway, supplemented by town appropriations, made possible the charming white building on Main Street adjacent to the Congregational Church. This building was dedicated on May 18, 1897 and was in continual use as a public library until June 4, 1994. The building was made to accommodate more than 10,000 volumes for a population under 1000 people. In 1974, the downstairs was furnished as the Marjorie Kirkness room, named for a former trustee. In 1982 the children's collection was moved downstairs to the Kirkness room, and in 1990 a handicapped ramp was installed.
As the town grew, so did the needs for more space and services. Study and Building Committees were organized and met diligently until the Stewart building, part of a business complex, was purchased by the town from monies voted at the March, 1993 Town Meeting.
It is hoped that this building will continue to fulfill the requirements of the original state library act for "general diffusion of intelligence among all classes of the community," as well as carrying on the tradition of the Main Street facility: providing a stimulating environment for a variety of cultural activities for patrons of all ages.
The second floor with space for non-fiction, reference, study and meeting rooms opened in 2004.