The newest addition to Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series is Boston Public Library from local author Catherine J. Willis, with a forward from the library president, Amy E. Ryan. The book boasts more than 200 vintage images and memories of the first large municipally funded public library in the United States.
The Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large municipally funded public library in the United States. Although the library was founded in 1848, the original idea was first proposed by French ventriloquist Alexandre Vattemare in 1841. In 1854, the library opened to the public in two rooms in a schoolhouse on Mason Street. Just four years later, the building on Boylston Street opened with 88,789 items.
In 1871, the BPL was the first library in the country to open a branch, and by 1895, when the new central library was opened in Copley Square, 29 branches and reading rooms had opened. Charles Follen McKim was the principal architect of the new building, which is noted for its perfect proportions, magnificent murals, and beautiful ornamentation throughout the building. The tremendous growth of the library made it necessary to build an addition, and in 1972, the new building designed by Philip Johnson was opened.
Highlights of Boston Public Library:
• The majority of the images came from the archives of the Boston Public Library.
• Since 1870, there have been branch libraries at 127 different addresses in Boston.
• The BPL’s twin lions in the main staircase of the McKim building were created 15 years before the New York Public Library’s twin lions were carved.
• When designing the main library in Copley Square, Charles F. McKim turned to Henri Labrouste's Biblioteque St. Genevieve in Paris, built 50 years earlier, for inspiration. The two buildings look very similar.
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