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!
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 Public Library was established in 1855 as one of the earliest public libraries in Massachusetts, succeeding a private subscription library that was organized in town in 1802. Between 1855 and 1913, the town’s library was housed in the Town Hall building. When it was determined the cramped library space was insufficient, a new site was acquired nearby and funding was received for a new impressive structure. Cass Gilbert of New York, one of the premier architects of the time was hired to complete designs, he was paid a total of $651.81 for his work. Charles Greeley Loring (1881-1966) of Gilbert’s office (and a Beverly native) apparently worked out much of the details on the project and likely had a large part in the designs, probably because Cass Gilbert was working on designs for his iconic Woolworth Building in Manhattan at that same time. The walls of the library are clad in brick with a Flemish bond pattern and are trimmed with marble. At the main entry, double doors are framed by a classical surround, which is set within a concave curved recess/apse with a half-dome ceiling. The dome is embellished with terracotta moldings in a diamond pattern in which are centered small bas-reliefs in classical motifs. I can’t get over how gorgeous this library is!
Designed by Boston architect, James Templeton Kelley, the Richards Free Library (originally the Seth Richards House) is an outstanding example of the Colonial Revival style, in a region where such expressions of opulence are relatively rare. Located on Main Street in Newport, NH, the house was built during a period of great prosperity by one of Newport’s wealthiest citizens. Richards was one of the few in the area able to afford the services of a metropolitan architect for his own home. The family occupied the home until the 1960s when Louise Richards Rollins, offered the family home on Main Street for the to the town for use as a library in 1962. The first floor rooms were renovated and equipped as a library and Ms. Rollins continued to live on the second floor of the library until her death.
The Pequot Library in Southport, Connecticut was founded in 1889 by Virginia Marquand Monroe and her husband Elbert B. Monroe. The library, designed by noted New York City architect Robert H. Robertson, opened to the public in March 1894. The building is Romanesque Revival in style in a granite sandstone construction. There is an expansive roof area topped with red tile and hipped dormers; an arcaded entrance porch with three arched openings serves as the focal point of the front facade. It was Mrs. Monroe’s intention that Pequot be as “free as air to all”, which it remains as to this day.
Gifted to the town of Pomfret by Ira Abbott, the Abbott Memorial Library is one of the most stunning little libraries in the State of Vermont. Given to his hometown as a memorial to his parents by Ira Abbott, who was at that time a State Supreme Court justice in the territory of New Mexico. Its architect, Henry M. Francis, used diverse materials — brick, granite, fieldstone, red birch, and pre-stressed concrete, to design the eclectic building. Capped with a red slate roof with terra cotta ridge tiles, the building stands out as one of the most unique buildings in the state and has been extremely well-maintained through its public-privately funded Commission.
In 1897, Sidney A. Kent, a Suffield native, graduate of Suffield Academy and successful Chicago businessman sought to build a $35,000 library as a memorial to his parents in his home town. Land was purchased from the academy, demolishing a significant academic building, and the new Kent Memorial Library erected. Kent hired architectural giant Daniel Burnham (architect of the famous Flatiron Building in Manhattan) who also designed Kent’s home in Chicago. It sat on the site of land purchased by the first Kent ancestor in Suffield. Sidney Kent furnished nearly 7000 books and periodicals and left an endowment of $25,000. The building was dedicated on November l, 1899. It was eventually outgrown and a new building was constructed across the street.