The original section of this building was the second dwelling house of Rev. John Lothrop (1584-1653), one of the first European settlers who settled in present-day Barnstable in 1639. The oldest part of this structure, built in 1644 (yes you read that correctly), is possibly the oldest extant house in the Town of Barnstable. The home was constructed as 21 feet long and 29 feet deep with a chimney on the west side of the house. Perhaps John Lothrop’s principal claim to fame is that he was a strong proponent of the idea of the Separation of Church and State (also called “Freedom of Religion”). This idea was considered heretical in England during his time, but eventually became the mainstream view of people in the United States of America, because of the efforts of Lothrop. His descendants today include six former presidents, Louis Comfort Tiffany (of the stained glass fame), J. P. Morgan, Clint Eastwood, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and many more recognizable names! The house was eventually owned by Isaac Chipman in the 19th century, and he modified the house close to its current conditions, adding on numerous times.
Captain William Sturgis, a mariner, businessman and politician, who was born in the house, purchased the property in 1862 from the heirs of Isaac Chipman. Sturgis left $15,000 along with this property in a trust to be gifted to the people of Barnstable for a public library. The library opened in 1867 in his honor, with 1,300 books. As the old Lothrop House is incorporated in the building, it makes the Sturgis Library the oldest building housing a public library in the USA. A great claim to fame for this town!
The Wilton Public and Gregg Free Library is the public library for the town of Wilton, New Hampshire and is among the town’s most grand architectural designs. The library was the gift of David Almus Gregg (1841-1928), a native of Wilton who owned a successful building parts business in Nashua manufacturing doors, window blinds, and window sashes with his father, David Sr., who lived in the home featured previously. Gregg was significantly involved in the design and construction of the building, providing the highest quality building materials and contractors to the project, which was estimated to cost $100,000 when completed in 1907. The architectural firm of McLean and Wright was commissioned to design the building, who completed it in the Classical Revival style, like many of their other library designs in New England.
The Frederick E. Parlin Memorial Library is arguably the most architecturally significant building in the City of Everett, Massachusetts. Constructed of buff brick, sandstone and terracotta, it displays characteristics of the Richardsonian Romanesque style including the main entrance set within a recessed arch at the base of a square tower with arched openings. In 1892, Albert Norton Parlin, a local businessman, donated to the City of Everett the Pickering Estate, his birthplace and familial home, to be torn down and a library erected on the parcel in memory of his son, Frederick E. Parlin, who died in 1890 at the age of eighteen. Albert Parlin gave to the City an additional $5,000 to aid in the building of the Frederick E. Parlin Memorial Library. The original 1894 library as well as a 1911-1912 addition were designed by local architect John Calvin Spofford who positioned the building to face a small triangular park. By the 1940’s, the building was outgrown, but it wasn’t until 1982 that a plan was set in motion to renovate the original building and to construct an addition. Childs, Bertman, Tseckares was chosen to draw up the architectural plans, and ground was finally broken in the spring of 1990. With construction of the new addition, the building is almost three times its original size and handicapped accessible, all with an appropriate, Post-Modern design.
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.