Thomas Oliver Hazard Perry Burnham was born in Essex in 1814. During the mid 1800's he became a successful and affluent used bookseller & publisher in Boston. In his will he bequeathed $20,000.00 for the building of a library and one town office in Essex. The location of the building site, was chosen in a closly contested vote, over South Essex. The architect Frank Weston's design was selected over two others in a blind competition and is representative of the Shingle Style architecture.
The construction began in 1893. Stones for the foundation were contributed by the townspeople from various locations. The clock tower was donated by Lamont Burnham of Boston and the Santa Maria weather vane commemorates the shipbuilding of Essex.
The dedication of the completed building was in February 1894.
Today the building is still used for the T.O.H.P. Burnham Library and town offices.