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.
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.
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!
This mansion in North Adams, MA was built in 1865 for Sanford Blackinton. Blackinton was said to be the first millionaire in North Adams, and his mansion was the most elaborate home ever built in the city. His mill produced woolen goods during the Civil War including cloth for the Union forces. After the Civil War, many factory owners no longer lived amongst their workers, as they formerly had done, but instead built luxurious mansions in other neighborhoods, away from their factories. These large residences were designed in extravagant modern styles to impress the public and reflect the stature of their owners. European materials were even imported to grace these homes, such as the Italian marble fireplaces in the Blackinton Mansion.
Sanford Blackinton built his mansion in the hopes that it would become the ancestral home for his descendants. However, after the death of his widow (their four children died by the 1870s), the mansion was put up for sale in 1896, and was bought by North Adams’s first mayor, A.C. Houghton.
He in turn donated the mansion, along with $10,000 for renovations, to the city, to be used as a public library and as a meeting place for the local historical society. He requested that the building be known as the Andrew Jackson Houghton Memorial after his late brother. The home, designed by architect Marcus Fayette Cummings, is a high-style Second Empire mansion with a prominent tower, constructed of red brick with brownstone trim.
Located at the Braintree Green, the Old Thayer Public Library is one of the older remaining institutional buildings in the town. The building is a result of the generosity of General Sylvanus Thayer (1785-1872), a Braintree native and retired officer of the Army Engineers. He donated $10,000 and gave an additional $10,000 for the support of the institution, oh and he also donated money for the Thayer Academy in Braintree and to Dartmouth College for the Thayer School of Engineering. Before he could see his gifts completed, he died, but his family made sure that the gifts were overseen accordingly.
The Old Thayer Public Library was designed by Hammatt and Joseph Billings, under-appreciated brothers and architects who designed some of the best buildings in the region. The one–story (yes it was a high ceiling) building has a slate hipped roof and two chimneys. The brick masonry walls rise from a continuous, finished granite belt above the granite foundation. Corners are quoined, and the deep eaves and molded cornices are supported by granite consoles rising from a continuous narrow granite stringcourse. The building was eventually outgrown as the population in the suburban city boomed in the 20th-century. It operated as a library until 1953, when it was replaced by a larger building across the street, replaced again in the 1990s by the current library.