His large domineering portrait watches over those working in the reference room of Medfield’s Memorial Public Library and yet only a handful of people in town know who he is, as there is no identification to go with the portrait. His donations and gifts to the town still impacts Medfield’s character to this very day. So important was he to Medfield that there was a time when others actually named their children after him. The library portrait, of course, is that of Granville F. Dailey.
Granville Dailey was born in New York City on March 20, 1848 and educated in the public schools there. Dailey went on to become a very successful merchant, business partner with the Medfield hat factory and vice president of the Harlem Savings Bank in New York City. Starting in 1871, Dailey and brother-in-law Haskell Searle, were business partners with Medfield hat factory owner Daniel D. Curtis. They managed its New York City connection. They attended to the sales and purchasing of braid, while Curtis’ attentions were on the manufacturing in the Medfield plant.
In 1886, after the death of Daniel Curtis, he took charge and the name of the hat factory changed to Searle, Dailey & Company. In 1899 the factory name was changed yet again under the ownership of Edwin V. Mitchell. It was renamed the Edwin V. Mitchell Company but the New York office retained the name of Searle, Dailey & Company, because Haskell Searle and Granville Dailey had been so well known to the trade for such a long time. Due to the nature of his business, that took him between New York and Medfield, Dailey had a summer home here which was located at 115 North Street. It was in1901 that tragedy struck with his youngest daughter dying at the age of eighteen.
Dailey was very involved in Medfield town affairs. In 1903, he and business partner Edwin V. Mitchell bought controlling interest in the Medfield Water Company. In 1920 Dailey donated those shares to the town. This enabled Medfield to purchase the plant, land and franchise of the Medfield Water Company, changing, for the first time, water service in Medfield from private to public control. A three member water board was then elected.
In 1909 Edwin V. Mitchell resigned from active work as owner and president of the hat factory and Granville Mitchell was elected president of the Edwin V. Mitchell Company. Tragedy again struck, this time in 1911, when Dailey’s wife died at the Medfield summer home. Her remains were taken to New York City for burial.
In 1923 Medfield’s famed Peak House was in a state of deterioration and was facing demolition, when a grassroots effort began in the town to save the historic structure. A town committee was appointed made up of Dr. Henry Lee Morse, Michael Griffin and Granville Dailey. Dailey, knowing its historic value to the town, donated the $1,600 expense needed for its renovation. The historic house was then signed over to the Medfield Historical Society on June 27, 1924. The Historical Society then undertook the task of restoration. Because of this, a rare surviving example of early Colonial architecture was saved from decay and demolition; the fate of too many historic older homes. Today the Peak House is proudly listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places, thanks in large part to the efforts and financial outpouring by Granville Dailey.
Perhaps Dailey’s greatest impact on the town happened in 1916 when the town accepted as a gift from him, a Memorial Public Library, built on the southeast corner of Main and Pleasant Streets in accordance with plans submitted by famed architect William G. Perry. Perry, who lived in the famed and historic Mason Homestead on 190 North Street, was hired by John D. Rockefeller for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. A look at the architect of the library today reflects that Williamsburg style.
The Medfield Public Library was previously located in a small room inside town hall. The new library was dedicated as a memorial to Dailey’s late wife and daughter, hence the name Medfield Memorial Public Library. His gift totaled $76, 374.20. The library dedication ceremony took place in town hall on July 25, 1917 where Dailey presented the keys to the library to Medfield selectmen.
In 1921, on the 50tyh anniversary of his entrance into the hat industry in Medfield and New York City, the portrait of Granville Dailey that now hangs in the Library was unveiled and hung
Granville F. Dailey died on December 7, 1929 but his impact continues to be felt to this very day and his portrait continues to watch over the library he donated to the town and over all those who continue to use it.
Reprinted with permission of Richard DeSorgher and Hometown Weekly where it was originally published.