Ruth M. Neely leans on a bookshelf in the Children's Department

Patrons and community members are invited to come welcome new Executive Director, Ruth M. Neely, on Thursday, September 14th from 9 -10 am for an informal coffee and conversation with the director. Say hello, ask questions about the library, or share with her your own Sewickley origin story. No registration necessary. Coffee station provided by Press House Coffee.

Ruth M. Neely stepped into the role of library director as Sewickley Public Library was in the middle of a multi-faceted construction project and an historic 150th anniversary celebration while replacing a director who held the role for 25 years; but Ruthie’s not intimidated by all the irons in the fire. It’s in her DNA.

William Neely Sr., Ruthie’s four-times great grandfather, opened the first blacksmith shop in Sewickley in the mid-1800’s on Beaver Road. He trained his sons Hiram (Ruthie’s three-times great grandfather) and his brother William Jr. to work in the family business. From Beaver Road they moved to “Coffee Pot Alley” (now Locust Place), and then finally in 1873 you could find the Neely Horseshoeing and Blacksmith Shop at the intersection of Chestnut and Washington ­ less than a block from the library where the fire station now stands. A 1904 article in the Sewickley Herald noted that, “Blacksmith Bill can forge and make anything that is wanted from a piece of iron”.

Photograph of Neely Family Reunion, 1909 from the Sewickley Herald archive

Another 1908 article entitled “Sewickley Boys Years Ago” shows a photograph taken in 1873 of a group of young men who used to congregate at Neely’s blacksmith shop where they liked to “make ready for a lot of mischief”. Blacksmith Bill heard of a daguerreotype boat that was stopping here at the foot of Chestnut Street and took 14 boys down to the river to have their picture taken. We are left to wonder if some of those same boys may have been the very ones “causing riot and mischief on a whiskey boat at Saw Mill landing” that same year that led to the founding of the Young Men’s Library Association to provide “a place for more rational amusement” —eventually becoming Sewickley Public Library.

Upper row, left to right - William Stewart, John Stewart, Garry Taylor, J.D. Woodburn, George Ritchey, William Abercrombie, C. Ingram Lower row - T. Searight, Frank MCallen, Albert Allen, William H. Emmert, Reese Ellis, Warren McPherson, Charles Prentice

Today, Ruthie can see the former site of her family’s blacksmith shop from the front doors of the library. “Five generations later, I’m proud to continue the family tradition of providing essential services to the Sewickley Valley,” says Neely. The board of directors and staff believe Ruthie will forge great things at SPL.

Meet the New Executive Director