The Oldest Lending Library Alex Van Oss visits the nation's oldest lending library, the 250-year-old Redwood Library and Athenaeum in Newport, Rhode Island. Still in its original neo-classical building, the Redwood is steeped in history and contains numerous antique books. Heirloom portraits and Greek sculptures adorn the hallways. Thomas Jefferson was an early visitor. Henry and William James were regular brousers, as were Edith Wharton, Emma Lazarus, and Julia Ward Howe.