Exeter Deconstructed: The Davis Library

The school we love in detail.

May 1, 2023

Everything old is new again, or so they say, which is particularly useful at a school celebrating 243 years. The expression fits in the case of the venerable Davis Library building, which is getting a renewed purpose in its second century.

Once a library, then a student center, then PEA Dance’s makeshift studio and finally office space for Admissions, the building is poised to become home to the Department of Classical Languages. Plans include four classrooms on the first floor and renovations to second-floor spaces to create a new Latin Study and a versa-tile hall for a variety of school functions.

Davis Library opened in 1912. It is named for Benjamin P. Davis, a member of the class of 1863 who bequeathed $50,000 to the school to fund a library. For 60 years, the building served as intended before yielding in 1971 to the much larger Class of 1945 Library erected beside it.

The space soon found a second life as the Davis Student Center, home to The Exonian, WPEA and clubs of every order. When the old Thompson Science Building was renovated in 2005 to become what today is the Elizabeth Phillips Academy Center, Davis was again without a tenant.

Admissions’ financial aid operations moved into the first floor, and in 2009, the former reading room on the second floor was converted into a dance studio. The dancers moved out in 2018 with the arrival of The David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance. Admissions found other accommodations. That left 7,000 square feet of brick and marble awaiting their next chapter.

That chapter is scheduled to begin in August 2024.  


This story was originally published in the Spring 2023 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.