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.
This house was built in 1839 Dr. Walton Nye Ellis (1808-1867), who served as physician in Marion in the second quarter of the 19th century. Born in Wareham, Ellis moved to Marion, and married Susan Delano (1809-
1840) after her death, within the year, he married Lucy Clark Allen (1820-1885); he had a daughter with his first wife and four daughters and three sons with his second. By 1838, he purchased a lot in Sippican Village for the price was $225. In 1855, Dr. Ellis organized a meeting of prosperous Village men, mostly sea captains, with the purpose of planning a library for the town. They pooled resources and funded a library which was located in a large closet on the second floor of his home seen here. The library’s books could be borrowed for a few cents a week. Subsequent funding from Elizabeth Taber helped create the Taber Library just decades later. In the 1960s, the home was gifted to the Sippican Historical Society, who remain in the building to this day.
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.
On July 14, 1873, Mrs. Mary L. Fletcher and her daughter, Miss Mary M. Fletcher, gave the city of Burlington, VT, $20,000 for the founding of the Fletcher Free Library. Half of this sum was to be spent on books; the other half was used to start an endowment for the library. By 1901, the library had outgrown its location in the old City Hall building. In the same year, Andrew Carnegie made a gift of $50,000 for the construction of a new library. In 1902, an architectural competition was created with entries from Boston, New York, Buffalo, Montpelier, Vermont, and Lowell, Massachusetts, but a young Burlington architect, Walter R. B. Willcox won the commission. Willcox designed the new ornate library that year and in August, 1904, the new library was dedicated and opened for business. In the early to mid-1970’s there was some pressure from the citizenry to demolish the Carnegie building and rebuild on the site, which coincided with Burlington’s large urban renewal policies in the downtown area. In response, a group of Burlington residents formed The Committee to Save the Fletcher Free Library Building. A petition was circulated, and as a result, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. In 1977, a grant of $234,000 made possible the stabilization and external repair of the building, and later an addition was constructed, to allow the historic library to meet the needs of the much larger city.
Have you ever heard of a church becoming a library? Well you have now! Built in 1897 for the Univeralist Unitarian Congregation in Richmond, Vermont, this imposing building stands as a rare high-style Gothic church design for such a small town. The congregation occupied the building until the dwindling population in town made it no longer feasible to keep the doors open, closing in 1956. When the congregation disbanded, the building was sold to a Richmond resident who then offered the property to the Richmond School District, which had its large school next door. Voters accepted the gift at Town Meeting and passed a bond to convert the building into a cafeteria and gymnasium for the school next door. In the mid-1980s, with a new school in town, the school building was abandoned and converted to the Town Hall. The gymnasium and cafeteria in the former church was no longer needed, and some in town proposed to demolish it to build a new, modern library. Preservationists petitioned to save the building, acquiring funds to restore the exterior and convert it to a library. They won. The library operates here to this day as a unique place for residents young and old to read and learn in an architectural treasure.
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.