The Kirstein Library is architecturally notable as one of the city’s best examples of the Federal Revival style. The design, inspired (mostly copied) by the central arch of Charles Bulfinch’s 1793 “Tontine Crescent” on Franklin Street, reflects the architects’ academic interest and study of the Federal aesthetic. The Federal Revival building features many Federal features including the Palladian window on the second story, the Ionic pilasters, central lunette window, and a triangular gable pediment.
The Kirstein Memorial Library is historically significant as the sixth “business” library in the United States and was operated as part of the Boston Public Library system. Louis E. Kirstein, the Vice-President of Filene’s Department Store, donated $200,000 for the cost of the building and its furnishings in memory of his father, Edward Kirstein. The main purpose of the library was to provide convenient access to information needed by the business and community. The first and second floors were devoted to magazines, bulletins, government reports, and books dealing with business and economics. The library was later moved to the BPL Main Branch at Copley Square and the building is still owned by the City of Boston.