The Main Library building consists of four distinct structures designed by four different architects, beginning with the 1882 H.H. Richardson building and ending with the 2001 addition. Each part of the building is generally referred to by the name of the architect responsible for its design. See below for a chronological overview of each section.
1882: RICHARDSON BUILDING
The Thomas Crane Memorial Library is Quincy’s original library building designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and funded by Albert Crane in honor of his father, Thomas Crane.
Considered Richardson’s masterpiece in the field of library architecture, the building was ranked 43rd out of 150 works of architecture recently selected as America’s Favorite Architecture. The foundation is of Quincy granite, the upper structure of North Easton granite, and the trimming of Longmeadow brownstone.
At the entrance there appears a seal of the City of Quincy, the date in Roman numerals (1881), and a crane in honor of the Crane family. The interior woodwork is of North Carolina pine. Designs for the handcrafted decorations were planned in H. H. Richardson’s office and carried out by a Mr. Evans.
Overhead to the left of the fireplace is the grill, which was used to separate the reading room from the closed stacks before the ell was added. Hand-carved native plants and berries form part of the ornamental woodwork of the fireplace.
The “Old Philosopher” stained glass window in the front of the building was done by John La Farge as a memorial to Thomas Crane and is considered a masterpiece of stained glass work. There are seven pieces of glass in the ear alone and a total of about a thousand pieces.
At the left of the fireplace is another La Farge window, “Angel at the Tomb,” given in memory of Thomas Crane’s son, Benjamin Franklin Crane. The quotation “And his leaf shall not wither” carved in wood was originally under this window. It was shifted to the rear of the ell when the window was moved from its original place adjacent to the front door. The bronze tablet to Mrs. Thomas Crane (Clarissa Starkey Crane) is the work of William Couper.
For more information, see The Crane Library by L. Draper Hill, Jr.
1908: AIKEN ELL
In 1908, a donation from Albert Crane made possible the erection of an ell, designed by William Aiken.
The ell increased the reading and book rack space and provided a children’s room in the basement.
The stained glass windows at the rear of the ell were formerly at the end of the original reading room, but were moved to permit more light in the room. Most of the windows represent bookplates. These are not La Farge windows.
The basement of the ell (the current location of the Crane Library Bookstore) initially served as a children’s room. After the Coletti Addition was built in 1939, the space was occupied by technical services, the department responsible for the ordering and cataloging of books and other library materials.
Because there was no elevator in the building, materials were transported from floor to floor via dumbwaiters. The space occupied by these dumbwaiters now houses air conditioning ducts.
In July 2011, a renovation of the Aiken ell basement area was completed, funded by a Community Preservation Act grant. Custom shelving was funded by State Aid to Public Libraries.
1939: COLETTI ADDITION
Constructed with funds from two sources, 55% from Crane family funds and 45% from the U.S. Public Works Administration, this 1939 addition was dedicated as the Albert Crane Memorial Wing in 1952.
Designed by Paul A. and Carroll Coletti, Quincy and Boston architects, the style is Richardson Romanesque, but modified to permit better natural lighting and retains the turret and eyebrow windows.
The exterior is granite and brownstone to match the color and texture of the same materials in the 1882 building. The roof of red slate continues the harmony of the two buildings. The two carved brownstone bas reliefs flanking the main entrance symbolize Quincy’s granite and shipbuilding industries. Featured in the gable end of the street elevation is a crane to commemorate the generosity of the Crane family.
Rear elevations are of glazed brick specially made with quartz and mica spots to match the granite of both buildings.
The interior woodwork is native pine, and the original furniture, specially designed by the architects, was maple. Several of these tables can now be found in the Aiken ell.
2001: CBT ADDITION
In October 2001, the Library completed a three-year expansion, renovation, and restoration project. The project was carried out in two phases: the first, the renovation of the 1939 Coletti addition and the construction of a 55,000 square foot new addition; the second, the restoration of the 1882 National Historic Landmark H. H. Richardson building and its 1908 Aiken ell.
Architect Richard Bertman and his team from CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc. of Boston designed the new addition, constructed of granite, brick, and brownstone, with the distinctive red slate roof. This addition incorporates aluminum arches, balconies, and windows in a contemporary interpretation of Richardson’s Romanesque style. Organized around a three-story atrium, the addition more than doubles the library space. In 2005, the addition was dedicated to Mayor James A. Sheets, in honor of his vision, leadership, and commitment to the library construction project.
Working from old photographs, CBT directed the restoration of the Richardson building, repainting the walls, recreating period light fixtures, and restoring the yellow pine woodwork and wide-planked floors. The remaining tables and chairs designed by Richardson were restored and put back into use for the public to enjoy.
The project was funded by the City of Quincy, with grants from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and nearly $1 million in private donations.
In January 2002, the library was awarded the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board’s 2001 Honor Award for Accessible Design in Public Architecture. In May 2002, the library received a Massachusetts Historical Commission 2002 Historic Preservation Award.