Libraries in Manchester





As libraries funded by communities generally did not arise until the middle of the 19th century, Manchester’s first library was a private one.  In 1804, forty-five residents formed a “social library” with 150 books.  A second such subscriber library was formed two years later.   Both, however, came to an end a few years after their inception (for what reasons we do not know) and the books were parceled out among their members. [1]

In 1830, the Lyceum Association was founded. Any male could become a member by paying annual dues of 50 cents. The purpose of the Lyceum was to sponsor lectures and debates on current affairs and local issues. Shortly after its founding, the members established a library.  Books for this library were contributed by the members.

Participation in debates was restricted to the male membership, but women were invited to be auditors, and through their husbands, had access to the library.   Some of the debates were on lofty topics, such as whether property should constitute the criterion for suffrage, others to practical matters such as the best way to repair roads.

The Lyceum attracted a membership of about 120, including, “nearly all the principal men of the Town.” [2]  After an initial four-year period of great interest, the Lyceum, as a lecture and debating society, reverted to a back burner. In 1865, it saw a revival, significantly when it opened its membership to women. The revived organization started with 164 members—now male and female.   But even during its period of decline, the Lyceum, as a library, grew.  By 1868, it had a collection of 1,000 books.

The Lyceum library was initially housed in the Congregational Church’s “chapel building” then located on the site of the present firehouse.  When space for books ran out, the Lyceum prevailed upon the Selectmen to house its library in the old Town House next door. This structure was constructed in 1818 as school.  It was on the site of what is now the parking lot adjacent to the firehouse. The Town House served as a schoolroom, engine house for the fire department, and before construction of the Town Hall in 1868, provided office space for the Selectmen.  Now it hosted the Lyceum library as well.

The Lyceum organization elected annually from the membership a librarian who  was paid  $10 a year to repair books, solicit new members, maintain a catalog, and open the library every other Saturday for an hour.

But, enthusiasm for the Lyceum again waned.  In 1871, it disbanded “forever.” Its books were transferred to the Town under the stipulation that the Town establish a free public library, supported by public monies and private donations.

The free public library flourished.  Books from public appropriations and from gifts augmented the nucleus collection from the Lyceum.  By 1878, the library numbered some 3,000 volumes.  The yearly circulation was 14,500. [3]  Although the Selectmen’s office had by now moved to the new Town Hall built in 1868, the growing collection still needed more space.

In what is now traditional Manchester practice, a committee was formed in 1878 to study plans for a Civil War memorial.  This charge was then expanded to include a public library in conjunction with such a memorial.   A year later, the charge was again expanded to provide space within a memorial/library building for Manchester’s Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post Nr.  67.  Plans were duly made, but no appropriations were forthcoming from at least five subsequent Town Meetings.  But in 1886 (according to Lamson) Thomas Jefferson Coolidge offered to give to the Town a suitable building to serve as a memorial to the Civil War dead, and to house both the GAR and the public Library. This was an offer the Town could not refuse and the March meeting of 1886 voted funds to buy land for this purpose.  We shall return to this “noble gift” later, but continue now with the historical narrative.

In 1887, the Manchester Free Public Library, now holding more than 5,000 volumes, moved from its cramped quarters in the old Town House to its allotted space in the spanking new building.  This space consisted of what are now the reading room and first floor stacks (the second floor stacks were not added until 1958). The rest of the building served as a Memorial Hall (current circulation area) and GAR quarters. (Reference Room and Director’s Office)  The stacks were closed.  Patrons made their request to the librarian who found the book wanted and checked it out.  Patrons could use a Finding List that classified non-fiction according to a homegrown code.  From 1912 to 1914, the collection was converted to the Dewey Decimal System.

After the last GAR member, Charles H. Stone, died in February 1927, the Library took over the rest of the building.  The central hall remained as a memorial area; cases against the walls housed exhibits lent by individuals or institutions such as the Peabody-Essex museum.  The GAR rooms now housed books and tables for readers.

In 1945, the first of several major changes was made.  Hitherto, children had short shrift in the Library.  They had a table in the present reference room and were expected to sit quietly and read the books handed to them by the librarian.  As an experiment, what is now the Director’s Office was set-aside for children.  Although supervised, the children now had much more freedom by able to choose books from the shelves. This experiment was a great success; the Children’s Room now became an integral part of the Library.[4]

By 1957, the old layout had become unworkable in terms of changing patron needs.  The stacks were opened to the public, and a modern circulation desk put into the central hall.  In 1958 a mezzanine floor was put in the stack area, almost doubling space for books.

In 1965, the first and (thus far) only addition to the library was the current Children’s Room constructed at the right rear of the building. This room was a gift to the Town by the Friends of the Manchester Library, and is named in honor of Frances Q. Ervin, who was a tireless and creative trustee of the Library, and in was the principal founder of the Friends of the Library, organized in 1960.

In 1976 the Friends furnished the room on the second floor as a meeting place for the Trustees, and hopefully as an archive room.  It rapidly became a depository for old books.  Today it houses materials on local, books by Manchester authors, and printed archival material dealing with Manchester.

The Friends of the Library embarked in 1986 on a second major fund-raising campaign to complete the computerization of the library, which began a year earlier.  Computerization provides for electronic control of circulation and cataloging,  and allows Manchester to participate in statewide exchange of holdings

When the Lyceum’s library was taken over by the Town, a board of three trustees was established to supervise library operations. It apparently was a hands-on board, one of its members, Delucena. L. Bingham, was also the library director.  A second board of trustees was appointed shortly after 1887 to oversee the building and grounds, and to manage a trust fund (initially provided by the Town) the income of which was to be used for maintenance.   Eventually, the two boards merged into a single board of three trustees, initially called “Trustees of the Public Library and Memorial Library Building Fund”.  The last part of the title was dropped in 1962.

During its lifetime Manchester Public Library has had only 7 Directors. (as of 2015, 9 directors) The first was John. H. Crombie, 1871-1881.  Delucena L. Bingham Jr. succeeded him.  Bingham supervised the move of the library from School Street to its new building.  He held the position of library director until his death in 1912 at the age of 98!  Jane S. Sargent succeeded Bingham and served until 1945.  Doris Hoare Connors served from 1945 until 1980, Pamela Schwotzer from 1980 to 1986, Cynthia Entwhistle from 1986 to 1988, when the present director, Jolene Larsen, took over.  In 2005 Mrs. Larsen retired and Dorothy Sieradzki served until 2015 when Sara Lea Collins became Director.
Doris Connors, died 2014
Trustee Alida Bryant, retiring Director Dorothy Sieradzki, and Trustee Alison Anholt-White, on the occasion of Dorothy’s retirement, April 2015.
Sara Lea Collins


Thomas Jefferson Coolidge was, on his mother’s side, a great-grandson of Thomas Jefferson.  After graduating from Harvard in 1850, he went into business.  His father-in-law introduced him to the emerging textile industry where he made his first fortune.  He was involved in the expansion of railways in the last quarter of the 19th century, and then went into banking, founding, with his son, the Old Colony Trust Company.  He was also involved in civic affairs both at the local and national level.  He served on a Pan-American economic commission, and briefly, as Minister to France. In the course of his business career, he made a great deal of money and gave much of it away.  The Manchester Library was but a small part of his philanthropy.

Although he was of military age, Coolidge did not serve in Civil War.  His brother, Sidney did.[5]  He was a major in the Regular Army, a battalion commander in the 16th US Infantry, and was killed at Chickamauga.  One can’t help but wonder if in part Coolidge’s gift was also a private memorial to this brother.

Coolidge came to Manchester as a summer resident.  He writes in his autobiography, “In the winter of 1873 I began to build a country house at Manchester-by-the-Sea, on a wild promontory surrounded by the ocean.”[6]  That’s now known as Coolidge Point.

Coolidge said he became interested in the Library-Memorial project during an annual meeting of the Elder Brethren.  Of this group he remarked,   “These gentlemen, as you know, console themselves once a year for being over fifty years of age, by eating chowder and making speeches.”  [7] At one such meeting, probably around 1875, he was approached by Delucena L. Bingham, trustee and director of the public library, who made an “impressive appeal for a new Library Building and a Memorial Hall.  The words sank deep in me and. . . .I made up my mind to assist whenever the Town came to the conclusion that such a building ought to be erected.” Finally, in 1886, the Town voted to spend $3,000 to purchase the land on which the Library now stands.

Charles Follen McKim was the architect of the library.  He was born in 1847, briefly attended Harvard, and then went to Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts from 1867 to 1870.  On his return from France, McKim went to work for Henry Hobson Richardson.

Richardson, who is probably best known in these parts as the architect of Trinity Church in Copley Square, had also attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts.  He followed the dictate of the English critic and esthete, John Ruskin, that architecture is one of the fine arts and must be practiced as such.  McKim shared this view.  McKim and Richardson were close friends of the sculptor Saint Gaudens, and other artists of the times. While with Richardson, McKim worked on the design of Trinity Church, but throughout the 1870’s also took on outside projects either by himself or in collaboration with William Rutherford Mead, and his brother-in-law to be, William Bigelow.  Although McKim was still associated with Richardson, the three formed a partnership in 1872.  Bigelow left the partnership in 1879, to be replaced by Sanford White who had also collaborated with McKim and Mead during the 1870’s.

By 1886, McKim, Mead, and White was one of leading architectural firms in the United States.  In its last seven years, the firm had undertaken more than 215 commissions.  Most of these were for mansions, country houses and town houses for the rich and famous of the time, and for apartment complexes.  The firm also undertook designs for country clubs, casinos, and hotels, banks, railway terminals, and office buildings.  In 1887, the firm won the commission to design the Boston Public Library.

A year earlier, McKim, according to a biographer, designed “…a little public library at Manchester.” [8]

Although no documentary evidence has been found as yet, it’s almost a certainty that Coolidge himself selected the firm of McKim, Mead, and White.  It’s been suggested that the firm received the commission because McKim and Coolidge were personal friends, as McKim, in 1885, had taken as his second wife, Julia Appleton, who was niece to Mrs. Coolidge, Hetty Appleton Coolidge.[9]  But it’s interesting that in the Coolidge correspondence for 1886, there is a printed brochure of the charge schedules of McKim, Mead, and White, and all of Coolidge’s correspondence is to the firm, not McKim, and is strictly business.

Was McKim the first hand on the pencil?  Probably.  His partners had often remarked on his attraction to French architecture of the late medieval and early Renaissance period.  But where did the design come from?   Somewhat ambiguously, Coolidge said that the design [was] “Copied from an old library in England” [10] He may have been referring to the interior vaulted ceiling of the reading room, which is said to have been inspired by the library of Merton College, Oxford.  In another place, Coolidge remarked,The building was, I believe, copied from a building in the old country.” [11]  The oak screen “in the style of the French Renaissance” that stands in front of the stacks is said to be built of fragments McKim brought back from Morlaix, Brittany… an example of the best Renaissance wood-work of Brittany churches of the sixteenth century” [12]

With respect to the exterior design, Coolidge, in a letter of April 1892 on another matter, says the building is copied “from an ancient Norman library.” In another letter of the same time, Coolidge compares the building to a cloistered convent..

McKim described his design as follows:  “ A building dependent on its outward effect upon massive wall construction, designed intentionally on the simplest lines and roofed with rough slate, under a system of ridge and gable common to many buildings on the French side of the channel” [13]   Other than this,  we have no direct documentation that definitively nails down the architect’s inspiration.  What correspondence we do have (McKim’s letter books earlier than 1890 have been lost) rarely discusses the architect’s rationale for one design over another.  His custom was to present such matters verbally to the client, informally over a good dinner.[14]   Neither preliminary designs nor construction plans seem to have survived.   The New York Historical Society does hold McKim, Mead, and White archives, but an earlier inquiry as to whether the archives contain material on the Manchester library building came back negative.[15]  The only suggestion we have is a drawing by McKim, showing his conception of the future library.  Significantly, this drawing does not include the intrusive and non-functional dormer window on the Union Street side of the library.[16]

(unknown if this is the McKim drawing)

Although historical and regional models influenced the design, a more compelling influence on the exterior and interior design may have been its primary purpose—to be a memorial to the war dead.  McKim was following a growing post-war trend for building commissions that combined commemorative and practical functions.  Memorial Hall, the imposing Gothic structure built 1866-1868 at Harvard set the precedent.  Along with a space dedicated to tablets listing the Harvard war dead, the building provided a dining commons and theater. Locally, the first memorial library was built in Lancaster, followed by libraries at Andover and Northampton [17] and in almost all cases, the commemorative greatly outweighed the practical.

The Manchester design is evocative of Richardson’s four small-town libraries—Woburn, North Easton, Quincy, and Malden—that he designed between 1876 and 1886.  All were commissioned by private individuals and served to “consecrate. . . . the memory of the families who built them.”[18]

In McKim’s design, the functions of a library took second place to architectural and artistic esthetics. . The dilemma of combining these in a single form was well known at the time.  One critic of library design wrote in 1864 that

“. . .most libraries are either pleasing to the eye and unsuited to the purpose for which they were erected, or conveniently planned and contrary to the rules of good taste.”[19]

McKim himself characterized the interior of the library space as “medieval’[20] And one must admit that McKim, by providing but very little light into the library area, and no usable space above the first floor, was more concerned with esthetics than with use.

One critic commenting on the design of the Manchester Library pronounced it “playful” [21] But on reflection, I believe he was wrong.  He may have been connecting it too closely to configuration of the Narragansett Pier Casino with  “Its irregular skyline and seemingly ad hoc. . .arrangement. [that]. . represents the firm at its most picturesque.”[22]

The Manchester building possesses the gravity and solemnity that one expects of a memorial building.   McKim adapted Richardson’s use of the Romanesque to provide the structure with a sense of solidity and dignity, seen at the time as necessary to a memorial structure

Construction began in July 1886, and was barely completed in time for the dedication in October 1887.   As best we know, the contractors were John Watson of Beverly Farms who was responsible for the stonework and masonry, Philips and Kilham for carpentry, windows, plastering and painting. Joseph Cabus of New York executed new parts of the oak screen and other decorative paneling.   Stephen Connolly of Beverly built the wall and did the landscaping.  The local firm of Annibal and Leach constructed the bookshelves.

Although the architectural firm supervised, and a building committee of Manchester residents oversaw the construction, we learn from correspondence at the Massachusetts Historical Society that Coolidge took a hands-on interest in architectural as well as financial details.  On 4 May 1887, for example, he wrote the firm asking it to provide “sketches” of a stone wall to surround the building, so that Coolidge himself could contract out the work to “some Manchester man”.  He firmly stated his desire that the “dome” or cupola have slate roofing and was annoyed that Connolly, the supplier, could not get the proper slates.

We also learn that Coolidge had a sharp eye for irregularities in the execution of the contracts. In September 1887, he complains that the project is being charged for marble, which has not been delivered.  Early in March of the following year, Coolidge wrote the firm that “Mr. Watson . . .is now in insolvency” and is planning to “sue us for $10,000 in addition to the contract price.”  Watson’s grounds were that the contract called for plain granite, but afterward, the firm changed the specifications for granite with natural seam face, a far more costly material.  Coolidge’s charge to the firm was to provide him with “an exact account of what really did take place.”  We have a reply from the firm which dismisses Watson’s claim.  Moreover, there is no record that the matter was ever brought to trial in the Superior Court of Essex County.

[By the way, according to Barbara Erkkila’s book about the Cape Ann Quarries, “Hammers on Stone,” the library was built with stone from the Rockport Granite Company. Steve Rosenthal and Bill Cross research for Mr. Cross’ talk in 2012]

Reportedly, design and construction of the building cost Mr. Coolidge $45,000.  It’s not clear, however, what the original bid was.  McKim, Mead, and White had a reputation for specifying the best materials and workmanship; rarely did jobs go to the lowest bidder.[23]  The firm was also notorious for its overruns. [24]

Dedication services of the Memorial Library and Grand Army Hall were held 13 October 1887.  The program consisted of 14 speeches by 12 speakers, an ode, an anthem sung by a choir, and a concluding prayer.  Mr. Coolidge delivered the deed of gift to the Chairman of the Selectmen, the keys to the building to the Trustees of the Library and Commander of Post 67 at the conclusion of his address.  The address revealed his philosophy of what purposes a library should serve.

“It is not always desirable that a library should increase rapidly.  The great danger is, I think, that the Town, in order to gratify the demands of the young people for light literature, will buy the novels of the day.  My feeling is that a library is for the education of the young, and the amusement of old age.. . .I think a library should consist, first of all, of books of reference.” [25]

Commander Henry T. Bingham accepted the keys on behalf of Post 67 and in his address affirmed that following the passing of the last surviving veteran of the post, the GAR memorial hall and room would revert to the Town.


The Library clock was included in the original design and construction. It is one of the few Hotchkiss-design tower clocks still in existence and was custom-made by the Seth Thomas Company of Connecticut. The original specifications called for a cheaper clock.  The architects, characteristically “. . .determined at our own risk to provide a clock of better manufacture.” [26]   It was restored last year thanks to the generosity of Manchester residents and the Friends of the Manchester Library. The weathervane on the cupola was thought by some to represent the Mayflower.  Others opted for one of Columbus’s ships, or the Arabella as the model.  Probably it’s just a generic galleon of the 16th – 17th century.

On the walls of what is now the circulation area are seven tablets of Numidian (sometimes called Nubian) marble.  This onyx marble is found in Africa, and generally contains embedded fossils. Six of these tablets bear the names, places and causes of death of the Manchester men who died in the war.  These tablets were provided at the expense of the Town.   The two bronze plaques on the north wall commemorating the dead in earlier wars of America were added in 1895.

At the corner of the circulation room, there is a window (now not functional because of the addition of the children’s room) made of stained glass and Mexican onyx.  Designed by McKim and executed by Maitland Armstrong and Louis C. Tiffany & Co. of New York, it was a gift to Mr. Coolidge by the Town and McKim.  It is inscribed with the dedication, “In grateful acknowledgment of the munificence and public spirit of T. Jefferson Coolidge—his fellow Townsmen have set this window, MDCCCLXXXVI”

Mrs. T. J. Coolidge Jr. donated the large Sevres vase directly next to the window on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Library’s dedication.  It had been a gift to the elder Coolidge by the French government in recognition of his services as minister to France.

The large statue, “Sleeping Faun” now in the Reading Room is the centerpiece of the library’s treasures. It was given to the Library by the Coolidge family in 1922.  The “Sleeping Faun” is the work of the noted American sculptress, Harriet Hosmer, (1830-1908).  This work was one of a set of eight sculpted at Hosmer’s atelier in Rome.  The first was completed in time to be exhibited at an exhibition in Dublin where it received rave reviews.  Sir Benjamin Guiness, the brewery magnate, offered 1,000 guineas for the piece.   Hosmer reluctantly accepted.  A somewhat smaller version from this set is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Another of the set was purchased by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII)  Coolidge purchased another around 1869 while he was touring Italy. [27]   Hosmer was an unabashed neo-classicist—a good one.  One contemporary critic wrote,  “If it [the statue] had been discovered in the ruins of Rome or Pompeii, it would have been pronounced the best of Grecian statues.”[28]  But the style adopted by Hosmer for this work was “late Hellenistic rococo” rather than the classic Greek, and, according to a modern critic,  “. . . partakes of the same precious, fussy sensuality” characteristic of late Graeco-Roman art.[29]  But it was a favorite of Hosmer, and  pleased the art critics of its time.  It won special recognition when it was exhibited in Dublin, Paris and Edinburgh.

Mrs. William Hooper in 1943 gave three marble statues in memory of  Mr. Hooper. Two small ones, representations of Psyche and Narcissus are on the window sill of the Reference Room.  A larger statue, for some reason, was later relegated to the crawl space next to the furnace room, where it still rests.  Also in 1943 the Library received a large, stuffed buffalo’s head, which for a while was mounted over the Reference Room’s fireplace.  Thankfully, it has long since disappeared, although it too, might be lurking in one of the crawl spaces..
(According to Doris Connors, at her 95th birthday party, held in the library, she had this bust put in basement because the boys were defacing it.)

At the entrance of the Reference Room, on the right side, is a picture of the “Town House” which originally held the Library.  The large painting, a view of Manchester from Powder House Hill that hangs on the south wall of the Reference Room was painted in 1888 by Joshua Sheldon who was 80 at the time and blind in one eye.  He first offered the painting to the Town, which refused his offer. Edwin P. Stanley, past commander of Post 67 asked that the painting be donated to the Post.  Sheldon’s brother in 1892, did so and Stanley donated the frame.[30] The Manchester Cricket of 3 August 1889 has a somewhat different story.  Stanley had commissioned the painting, and when the Town declined to come up with the money, he wanted to raise subscriptions to pay for it. At any rate, the painting finally came to the Town as a gift of the GAR Women’s Auxiliary after 1930.

On the west wall of the reference room hangs a full-length portrait of  T. Jefferson Coolidge, most likely painted by the Massachusetts artist Edmund C. Tarbell (1862-1938)   It was given to the Library through the good offices of the Coolidge family in 1951.   Also, on the northwest wall of the Reference Room is an original sketch by McKim of the library, probably executed during the design of the building.

There are several original works of art in the Reading Room: the late Manchester watercolorist Tom Baker painted The Library in winter, which hangs over the fireplace.  A pencil sketch of the Library by Manchester artist Tom Cooke hangs on the south wall near the Reading Room entrance. On the other side, is the painting of a view of the Town center in 1848 as seen from the junction of High (Washington) and Union Street, executed by Manchester native A.C. Needham whose descendants still live in Manchester.   The large oil painting on the south wall is a representation of Romeo and Juliet before Friar Lawrence.  It’s probably the work of Karl Ludwig Friedrich Becker (1820-1900), a painter in oils who generally took his subjects from mythology and literature, to include scenes from Shakespeare.[31]  The painting had been in home of Ira Nelson Morris on Eagle Head;  Mrs. Morris donated it to the Library in 1951.  The banjo clock in the fireplace alcove was a gift of Mrs. Roland C. Lincoln in 1913.  The barometer was a 1963 gift in honor of Catherine Neary, a beloved teacher in the Manchester schools.

On the south wall of the Children’s Room is a  painting of a young girl by Maria Liszt.  The painting is a copy of a portion of John Singer Sargents’s  “The Daughters of Edward Boit” which hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  Mr.and Mrs. Edwin Butler donated this painting in memory of their daughter.

This brings us to the end of our history and of our tour of the Library’s works of art.  These bring a unique charm to a building which has been loved by the citizens of Manchester for over a century.




Correspondence of T.J. Coolidge.  Four Letter Books, 1892 – 1893, Correspondence Scrapbooks, 1886 – 1900.  Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston

________________  Dedication Services of the Memorial Library and Grand Army Hall

 At Manchester-By-The-Sea, Massachusetts, October 13 1887.     Boston:  Rand Avery Company, 1888

Carr, Cornelia (Editor)  Harriet Hosmer:  Letters and Memories   NY:  Moffat & Yard,                             1912

Breisch, Kenneth A.      Henry Hobson Higginson and the Small Public Library in                                                          America   Cambridge:  MIT Press 1997

Coolidge, T. Jefferson    Autobiography  Boston:  Massachusetts Historical                                  Society/Houghton Mifflin 1923

Moore, Charles The Life and Times of Charles Follen McKim, 1847-1909  Boston:                                  Houghton Mifflin 1929

Roth, Leland M McKim, Mead, and White: Architects  NY:  Harper & Row 1983

Sherwood, Dolly. Harriet Hosmer, American Sculptress, 1830-1908  University of Missouri Press, Columbus  1991


Taylor, Charles D. (editor)  Behind the Wall:  One Hundred Years of the Manchester

Public Library, 1887-1987  Commemorative booklet published by the Friends of the Manchester Library  1987

Jolene Larsen & Carl Triebs
1 May, 2002


From the Manchester Public Library Bulletin, Jan 1931

The Library was given to the town of Manchester by Mr. T. Jefferson Coolidge and dedicated on October 13, 1887.

The exterior of the Library was designed by Mr. C. F. McKim, architect, and is of a characier (sic) frequently noticed on the French side of the Channel.  The memorial window was designed by him also, the glass executed by Mr. Maitland Armstrong and Messrs. Louis C. Tiffany & Co.; the central panel, bearing the inscription is of Mexican Onyx.  The screen in the Library is in the style of French Renaissance, and built out of fragments of Oak Carving brought from Morlaix, Brittany, by Mr. McKim, in 1878, and valuable both as a carving and as an example of the best Renaissance wood work of Brittany Churches of the sixteenth century.  Other parts of the screen and surrounding paneling are of American Quartered Oak, antique finish, and executed from designs of the architect by Mr. Joseph Cabus of New York.  The principal inscription over the arch is taken from Carlyle’s version of Goethe’s “Choose well; your choice is brief and yet endless.”

The Roof of the Library Room was suggested by the old Library of Merton College, Oxford, twelfth century. The slabs in Memorial Hall are of yellow Numidian (African) Marble.

A new reading room was opened on January 3, 1928, and has been very well patronized and much favorable comment has been expressed as to its utility and attractions.

Central Hall is a memorial to the soldiers and sailors of the town who sacrificed their lives for their country.

A large painting of the Town of Manchester, as seen from Powder-House Hill and done about the year 1888 by Col. Joshua Sheldon, hangs in the reading room.  Col. Sheldon painted this picture at the age of 80 years, although having the sight of only one eye.

This remarkable painting was offered first as a gift to the town and on being refused, Commander Edwin P. Stanley of Post 67, G.A.R., became interested and asked Col. Sheldon to give it to the Grand Army Post 67.  They accepted it with great appreciation and had it hung in their hall.  It was bequeathed to the Women’s Relief Corps who have loaned it to the Library.




Banjo Clock                  1913 Mrs. Roland C. Lincoln     Reading Room

Town Report


Statue, Sleeping            1922  Coolidge Family              Reading Room

Faun                                        (See CRT Article)


Map of Manchester       1929  Raymond C. Allen                       Not located – originally hung

Mrs. E.P. Lane                             in Reference Room

Town Report


Painting – View of      1930?GAR Women’s Auxiliary    Reference Room

Manchester                               (See CRT Article)


3 Statues                       1942 Mrs. Wm. Hooper                        2 in Reference Room, 1

Town Report                               stored in crawl space (?)


Stuffed buffalo head     1942 Estate of M. Whitehouse    Not located

Town Report


Portrait T.J. Coolidge    1951 Dumaine Estate                 Reference Room

Town Report


Large oil painting,           1951 Mrs. Ira N. Morris                      Reading Room

Romeo & Juliet                        Town Report


Ship Model                      1954  Mrs. F.C. Rand             Archive Room

Town Report                 on permanent loan to Manchester                                                            Historical Museum


Sconces                           1957  Mr. R.G. Ervin              Reading Room

Town Report

The sconces in ref room may be hand made by Samuel Yellin, a famous ironworker.  Look on back for his signature. (a patron visiting Manchester thought the sconces might be Yellin’s. (


Fireplace tools                  1957  T.J. Coolidge III                       Reading Room

Town Report


Large Sevres Vase             1962  Mrs. T.J. Coolidge Jr.   Memorial Hall

Town Report


Barometer                        1963  Memory of C. Neary                Reference Room

Town Report


Oil Painting                       1965 Butler Family               Children’s Room

Town Report


“Handsome Clock”          1976  FOL in honor A. Ervin   Not located – Archive Room?

Town Report


Reading Enlarger               1998  Helen Bethel                           Reference Room

Town Report


CD Cabinets                      2005  Memory Virginia Hug,

A.J. Lerager                               Reading Room

Town Report                          one in office, the other donated                                                                       to Memorial School                                                                                    Playground.


Table & Chairs                  2005  Memory C.M. Smith   Children’s Room

Town Report              replaced in 2012 renovation



Watercolor by T. Baker                         Reading Room  Probably gift of Tom Baker

Pencil sketch by T. Cooke                      Reading Room   Probably gift of Tom Cooke

Oil painting by A.C. Needham   Reading Room  ?

Sketch by C.F. McKim              Reference Room           ?

Painting (s) in attic                                                                    ?

NOTE:  Library has Town Reports 1886-1894;   1909, 1913-2005. Missing are 1895-1908, 1910-  1912


[1]  Charles D. Taylor (Editor)  Behind the Wall One Hundred Years of the Manchester Public Library 1887-1987  Friends of the Manchester Library p.11

[2]  Dedication Services of the Memorial Library and Grand Army Hall, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Boston: Rand Avery Company p. 26

[3]  Behind the Wall, p. 12

[4]  Report of the Library Trustees, 1945.

[5] Coolidge speaks of his “brothers” in the Union Army.  His other brother, Algernon, was a physician, and in the spring of 1862 was an acting assistant surgeon in the Hospital Service of the United States.  Strictly speaking, this was not a military position.

[6]  Thomas Jefferson Coolidge,  Autobiography 1831-1920  Boston:  Massachusetts Historical Society/Houghton Mifflin 1923   p. 28

[7]  Dedication Services, p. 10

[8]  Charles Moore, The Life and Times of Charles Follen McKim  Boston:  Houghton Mifflin 1929   p. 87

[9]  Beyond the Wall  p.8

[10]  Dedication Services,  p. 11

[11]  Coolidge,  Autobiography, pp. 99 – 100

[12] Dedication Services, p.4

[13]  Kenneth A. Breisch, Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America  Cambridge:  MIT Press 1997  p. 237

[14] Leland M. Roth,  McKim, Mead, White, Architects  NY:  Harper & Row 1983  p. xx.

[15]  Letter from NYHS to Adele Irvin, May 1972.  Manchester Library files.

[16]  However, the window was in place at the time of the Library dedication.

[17]  Breisch, p. 40

[18] Breisch,  p.48

[19] S.G.W. Benjamin, “Libraries” cited in Breisch, p. 55

[20] Breisch, p. 237

[21] Roth, p. 111

[22] Roth, p. 74

[23] Roth, p.45

[24] I don’t think Coolidge would tolerate gratuitous overruns.  He appears to have had a sharp eye for the dollar, as may be seen in a later letter to the firm of Roberts and Hoare of Manchester, who submitted a bid to build a henhouse on his estate.   On 8 November 1893 he wrote:  “Dear Sirs:  The price you mention for the hen house is absurd.  I will not give over $100 under any circumstances, and John Lucas can concrete the floor at his leisure.  Please write me what you can do for that amount.”   (Coolidge Correspondence, Massachusetts Historical Society)

[25]  Dedication Services, p. 11

[26]  Letter, McKim, Mead, White to T.J. Coolidge, 28 Nov 1887, MHS T.J. Coolidge correspondence

[27] Coolidge,  Autobiography, p.65

[28] Sherwood, Harriet Hosmer, p. 209-210

[29]  Antiques Magazine, 1975

[30] Minutes of Post #67, GAR.  27 May, 1892

[31] Allgemeines Kunstler Lexikon  Leipzig: K.G. Saur, 1994  Vol. 8 p. 170   The Museum of Fine Arts apparently believes that Carl Becker was born in 1862.  This Becker, however, was exclusively a marine painter, whose subjects were maritime scenes and ships.  To further confuse the issue, there is another Carl Becker, born in 1862, a painter and illustrator who worked primarily in tempera, and limited his subject matter to military scenes.  He created a number of illustrations for popular histories of the Franco-Prussian War .

(The original document was prepared by Jolene Larsen (Director) and Carl Triebs (Trustee) for a presentation at Manchester Historical Museum in 2002. (edited by Dot Sieradzki in June 2015)