On Saturdays, countless Bangkok families, Thais and expats alike, have come together at Neilson Hays Library so that their children may journey through different adventures during story time, an activity that broadens young minds while fostering a love of reading. You may have also joined other events such as the children’s holiday parties, Firefighter’s Day and live music concert series, or simply visited the century-old structure as a peaceful refuge where you can sink into an armchair and read a book.
Located on bustling Surawongse Road, nestled among a grove of lush trees, the library houses thousands of English language books. It serves as a historic city landmark, commissioned by American expatriate Dr. Thomas Heyward Hays in memory of his beloved late wife Jennie Neilson Hays. Jennie was an active member of the Bangkok Ladies’ Library Association, an organization founded in 1869 for expatriate women to share books that remains a sanctuary for Thais and international visitors to be part of a community that thrives on books, art, music and ideas.
Today, the building — designed by famed Italian architect Mario Tamagno, and registered as a National Monument by the Fine Arts Department in 2001 — is crumbling amidst the many changes seen in the neighbourhood over the decades. For instance, a gaping hole in a corner near the entrance has been roped off, while in the center of the library, the wood floors are buckling.
The Restoration Project
For nearly 100 years, the building has operated continuously as a library, save a forced closure during World War II. To survive the next 100 years, the library requires a major restoration, which is underway. A team of Thai architects specialising in historic preservation has determined the nature of the restorations needed, including:
- The library’s floor structure will be strengthened, with original wood retained where possible
- The interior walls will be repaired – they are crumbling due to trapped moisture
- Roof tiles will be replaced to match original specifications
- Air conditioning and climate control will be improved to save energy and prevent humidity becoming trapped
- Drainage system will be improved to prevent flooding under the building
These essential repairs will cost 10 million baht, and the Neilson Hays Library Board is now launching a campaign to raise funds.
Families, art and music lovers and bookworms, please make a contribution if you can. Large or small, your support can make a real difference to the efforts to save and maintain the Neilson Hays Library for current and future generations.
Donations can be made to the below accounts.
- Neilson Hays Library Association, Kasikorn Bank a/c 023-161213-0 (Silom Soi 22 branch)
- Associate Neilson Hays Library, SCB a/c 002-308557-6 (Surawongse branch)
- Neilson Hays Library Association, Bangkok Bank a/c 118-534071-6 (Silom branch)
Please send an e-mail with an attachment of your payment slip along with personal information to restoration@