Albert John Akin (1803-1903) of Quaker Hill, Pawling, New York, a descendant of the original Quaker settlers who gave the area its name, was a philanthropist who sponsored projects and programs aimed at cultivating an enriched social environment. These efforts culminated in the establishment of the Akin Hall Association, incorporated in 1881. The Akin Hall Association owns and operates the Akin Free Library, which was designed by noted New York architect John A. Wood. Completed in 1908, the building is a distinguished example of eclectic late Victorian design, combining Renaissance revival and Neo-Greco details and featuring an arched entrance portico as well as a three-story tower topped by a cupola.
The Akin Free Library is a cultural and architectural focus of the rural community of Quaker Hill and was nominated in 1991 as a national and state registered historic place. The library collection is especially useful for research involving Dutchess County in the 19th century, including genealogical sources. The collection includes rare volumes and ledgers, books having to do with natural history, literature and children’s literature and also houses works by such local authors as Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Lowell Thomas, Norman Vincent Peale.
The Gunnison Museum of Natural History is located on the lower level of the library building. This collection was presented to the community by Olive Mason Gunnison in 1960. Amassed during Gunnison’s lifetime, the collection covers all phases of natural history with outstanding sections on birds, birds’ eggs and minerals. School and other groups find this a worthwhile place to visit.
The Historical Society Museum was founded in 1910 and is located on the second floor. This collection consists of items related to local Quaker history and farming life as well as to the Mizzen Top Hotel, a large and popular resort hotel located near the Akin Free Library in the late nineteenth century. The Historical Society of Quaker Hill and Pawling also maintain the Kane House in the village of Pawling and the Quaker Meeting House (1764) on Quaker Hill.