Rockport’s Town Hall opened in 1869. In the year that followed, a series of concerts and lectures—including one by Mark Twain—raised $250 to establish a town library. The town members accepted the donation and approved matching funds for the project in 1871, and a space was allocated in the town hall for the library. This space was quickly outgrown as the town continued to grow, and the townspeople clamored for more books. In the early 1900s, members of the town began negotiating with Andrew Carnegie, who was giving libraries to towns that could not afford them. In 1903, a town meeting accepted Carnegie’s offer to provide $10,000 to build a free public library building for Rockport and the town acquired a lot for the new building. Rockport’s Carnegie Library was built in 1907. The structure is built of locally quarried granite with Classical Revival detailing. The building functioned as a library until the fall of 1993, when additional space was needed and the town converted an old school to serve as the new building. The old Carnegie Library in Rockport was converted to a private home.
One of the smallest and most charming public library buildings in New England is the Hathaway Memorial Library in Assonet Village, in Freetown, Mass. The building was constructed in 1895 from funds donated to the town by Florence E. Hathaway as a memorial to her late father, Guilford Hathaway. For the early years of the library, there was no hired librarian, so Florence staffed the building on Thursdays, and two others alternated on Saturdays, to serve the community. By the turn of the 20th century, the postmaster’s wife was hired as the librarian, and given an office in the small building. Little town libraries just make me smile, they are so inviting and cozy!
One of the most substantial homes in Salem, Massachusetts has to be the Bertram Mansion, built in 1855 for Captain John Bertram (1796-1882). The high-style Italianate dwelling was erected on a parcel formed from four house lots upon which several buildings
had stood (they were all either moved or demolished). Captain Bertram, who became Salem’s most wealthy citizens, was born
into a family of moderate means on the Isle of Jersey off the coast of France. He and his family came to the United States in 1807, but their language barrier and the economic fallout in Salem from the embargo of goods from the War of 1812, left the family impoverished. At the age of 16, he had begun work as a sailor aboard merchant vessels and by 28, he had become a shipmaster. His desire to be successful led him to invest his earnings on very risky investments and deals, almost all were successful. Due to this, he was able to retire from the sea in 1832, at the age of 36. Growing up in poverty, Bertram in his adulthood used his wealth to help the less fortunate. An early gift of $25,000 and a brick mansion in Salem led to the creation of the Salem Hospital in 1873. After his death, in keeping with his tradition of philanthropy, his heirs donated the family home to the City of Salem for use as a public library in 1887. The brick mansion with brownstone trim and quoins has been used as a library ever since, and is thus, one of the nicest libraries in the state!
Bar Harbor’s first library is believed to have been organized in 1875 by a group of summer residents. This collection of 176 volumes was assembled for the use of Mt. Desert’s permanent residents and made available to them for two nights per week. A small frame library was built in 1877. In 1883, the growing collection was turned into a subscription library with borrowing privileges charged at the rate of $1.00 per family, but the fee was dropped three years later. By the late 19th century, the village’s population boomed, especially in the summer months when wealthy families descended upon the sleepy town every year to take in the cooler climate and sweeping scenery of Mount Desert Island. Acknowledging the need for a more suitable library, Maria Van Antwerp DeWitt Jesup, the widow of Morris K. Jesup (1830-1908), a New York financier and long-time summer resident of Bar Harbor, gifted the town funds to erect a new building as a memorial to her late husband. The Colonial Revival style library was designed by the New York firm of Delano & Aldrich, and exhibits a beautiful centered entrance recessed in a limestone arch.
The first of many generous gifts by Elizabeth Taber to the town of Marion, Massachusetts was this gorgeous Italianate style library building. Elizabeth Taber (1791-1888) was educated in the Sippican Village School, immediately giving back, teaching school in Marion while still in her teens. At 33, she married Stephen Taber, a clockmaker, and they had three children, none living to adulthood. They eventually settled in New Bedford, where Stephen made much more money in his trade, paired with investments in whaling excursions leaving the town. In 1870, eight years after the death of her husband, Elizabeth Taber turned her attentions to engaging in projects for the benefit of her hometown, Marion. In 1870, she bequeathed over $20,000 for the design, construction and furnishing of a new library in town that would also house a natural history museum. The natural history museum component of the building had been eclipsed in importance by the library which was expanded by side wings during the mid-20th century. Encompassing a collection of rocks, minerals, stuffed birds and other curiosities, the second floor museum was designed to complement the first floor’s book-learning activities. By the late 1870s, the Taber Library and Natural History Museum had become a key component of the Tabor Academy campus, founded just years later.
Possibly my favorite building type, the local town library buildings of New England, always amaze me with their small scale, yet architectural variety and intrigue. The library in Gardiner, Maine is no exception! This library building was constructed in 1881 from plans by Henry Richards, who was actually born in town in 1848. Henry graduated from Harvard in 1869, and soon after, took a post-graduate course in architecture at MIT. After completing schooling, he was a draftsman with Ware and Van Brunt. Soon after, he was a draftsman with Peabody and Stearns from 1872 to 1876, and then practiced architecture briefly on his own in Boston. During this time he married Laura Elizabeth Howe, daughter of Samuel Gridley and Julia Ward Howe. They moved to Gardiner, Maine and settled in a Federal house (featured previously), to learn more about Laura Richards and their house, check out the last post. Henry lived to be 100 years old! The library building is Queen Anne and Romanesque in style with a round corner tower with conical roof, brownstone and brick construction, and a stained glass ocular window with ogee parapet at the gable end roof. The small local library was added onto numerous times to hold a growing collection which includes works from Laura E. Richards, and Edwin Arlington Robinson, both Pulitzer Prize winning authors who lived in town.
Langdon Library in Newington, NH, was established through the generosity of Woodbury Langdon of New York City, a summer resident of Fox Point in town. In 1892 Langdon offered to donate 2,000 books to the Town of Newington, if suitable provisions could be made for their care and circulation. The Town voted to erect a library at town meeting in 1892 and accepted the offer. Portsmouth architect William Allyn Ashe furnished designs for the building which reads as a pleasing, symmetrical Romanesque Revival building. The structure was outgrown and needed repairs in 2013, and hired the firm of Lavallee Brensinger Architects to oversee the redesign, which restored the 1892 building. The resulting project tripled the usable square footage of the library, and the new wing allows the library to remain quaint and the main focus.
In 1888, William Allan Wilde, a Boston publisher who grew up in Acton, purchased land on Main Street to be used as the site for a new memorial library, in “memory of those brave and patriotic men of Acton who so freely gave Time, Strength and Health, and many of them their Lives in the war of the Rebellion, 1861-65.” The former Fletcher Homestead which was located here, was moved to a nearby street. The Richardsonian Romanesque building was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Hartwell and Richardson. The building displays traditional Romanesque materials with its brick wall surfaces, brownstone and terra cotta trim and detailing, and slate roof. The large Syrian arched entry is a hallmark in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, which works extremely well with this design.
Reading Vermont’s public library building was built in 1899, by local resident Gilbert A. Davis (1835-1919). The building’s funds were furnished by Mr. Davis in his life, likely inspired by Andrew Carnegie’s fund which had libraries built in towns all over the United States. Gilbert Davis worked as a lawyer in Woodstock before moving back to Reading, Vermont to run his own practice. The library he funded is Neo-Classical in design in the form of a Greek Cross with intersecting gable roofs and with a monumental portico in the Ionic Order on the front facade. The charming library building is well-preseved and an excellent example of Vermonts beautiful small-town libraries.
The Beverly Farms Library was built in 1916, replacing its previous quarters in a GAR Hall in the village. The land on which the library stands was donated by Katharine Peabody Loring and her sister Louisa Putnam Loring, daughters of William Caleb Loring (1819-1897) and his wife Elizabeth. The wealthy, socially prominent, and philanthropic Loring family built some of the earliest summer estates nearby. The architect for the Beverly Farms Library was the Loring sisters’ first cousin, Charles Greely Loring (1881-1966), partner in the firm of Loring and Leland. He was born in Beverly and graduated form Harvard in 1903 and MIT in 1906, later working in the Boston office of prominent Boston architect Guy Lowell. He went on to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and was afterwards employed in the New York City office of architect Cass Gilbert. While he was employed by Cass Gilbert, he was tasked with overseeing the designs and construction of Beverly’s Main Library (1913). The library is an excellent example of the Colonial Revival style for civic use and it was expanded one hundred years later, with an appropriate Modern addition.