James Blackstone Memorial Library
758 Main Street
Branford, CT 06405
Visit the library website to read about the history of the library.
Date visited: April 30, 2011
Date visited: April 30, 2011
The information below is taken from a historical facts handout given to me by the circulation librarian. She was very nice and obviously proud of her library. I'm often surprised at how reticent some librarians are when asked about the history of their library, so it was refreshing to meet someone who happily shared her passion for her library.
- Built by Timothy B. Blackstone (1829-1900) as tribute to his father, James Blackstone (1793-1886)
- Construction began: 1893
- Dedication: June 17, 1896
- Cost: $300,000
- Architect: Solon Spencer Beman
- Style: Grecian Ionic; details modeled on the Erechtheum of the Athenian Acropolis
- Initial holdings: 5,000 books
- First librarian: Arthur M. Tyler
- Current holdings: over 80,000 books, periodicals, and audiovisual materials.
The public library in Branford, Connecticut is one of the best library surprises that I've had so far in my travels. My partner and I were exploring coastal Connecticut and although we regularly stop at libraries or places of literary and/or historical interest, the library of Branford was not on our radar. To be honest, decidedly un-romantic, and rather base, nature was calling and we saw a sign for the library and headed in that direction.
The library building itself is impressive from the outside--the facade looks more like a small museum than a library, even a nice Carnegie Library--so we knew this would not be an average library (whatever that means), but even after walking up the stairs, between the marble pillars, and through the bronze doors, we were not prepared for what we saw when we walked in. It was surprise after pleasant surprise throughout the entire building.
|The front steps are 39 feet wide, exterior is Tennessee marble.|
|Gathering the Papyrus|
|Records of the Pharaohs|
|Stories from the Iliad|
|Venetian Copper-Plate Printing|
|First Proof Guttenberg Bible|
|The Franklin Press|
|A Book Bindery -- 1895|
|The mosaic floor tiles are marble and were designed in Paris. This one is directly below the dome.|
|Many of the light fixtures are original and were installed for use as gas or electric; when the library opened in 1896 it had 660 electric lights.|
|Back staircase with bust of Blackwell in the center.|
|Reference/periodical research area.|
|Stairs leading from reference area to lower level.|
|Cafe/refreshment area on the lower level.|
|Directional signage with a nice literary touch. I think such simple things make libraries fun and help to foster a love of literature.|
I'll end this post with some pictures from the James Blackstone Memorial Library's women's room:
|The open or engaged notice doesn't always line up, but it still functions at some level.|
|Inner turn lock still works.|
Stay tuned! In June I plan on visiting another Blackstone library.