At 6 Elm Street in Westfield is the Westfield Atheneum, a library originally incorporated in 1864. Funding for the first Atheneum building, located at 26 Main Street, was provided by Hiram H. Harrison, president of the American Whip Company, with additional funds for the purchase of books being raised by private subscription. The Atheneum later received the donation of a circulating book collection that was first used by the Westfield Social Library, begun in 1830. The Westfield Atheneum opened to the public on January 1, 1868. Originally requiring a $2.00 annual fee, in 1895 the Atheneum became a free library. In 1898, Westfield Academy donated another building to the Atheneum, the Fowler-Gillett Homestead (built c. 1828 by James Fowler) at the corner of Court and Elm Streets. It was remodeled for library use and opened in 1899. The current main Atheneum building, designed by Coolidge and Carlson, was erected in 1927 and the Fowler-Gillett Homestead became the Boys and Girls Library. A new wing and extension connecting to the Boys and Girls Library, which doubled the floor space of the Atheneum, were dedicated in 1966. The Atheneum building also contains the Jasper Rand Art Museum and the Edwin Smith Historical Museum.
The building at 203 Union Street in Clinton was constructed in 1853 to house the Bigelow Mechanics Institute. This institution was founded in 1846. As described in History of the Origin of the Town of Clinton, Massachusetts, 1653-1865 (1896), by Andrew E. Ford:
April 14, 1846, a petition was made to a justice of peace by H. N. Bigelow, J. R. Stewart, L. F. Bancroft, J. B. Parker, Sanborn Worthen, A. S. Carleton and G. H. Kendall, representing that those gentlemen were “desirous of forming an association for the purpose of mutual improvement and for the further purpose of extending improvement to and throughout the village in which they reside, and the neighborhood with which they are more immediately connected, by sustaining courses of lectures upon the sciences and their connection with the mechanical arts, by sustaining, if their means shall allow it, a school for scientific instruction and education in those branches more immediately connected with their employment, and the collection of a library, a reading room and a repository of ‘models and drawings of useful machines and mechanical inventions.” In answer to this petition, a warrant was issued for a meeting for the purpose of organizing an association with these ends in view.
[. . .] The preamble of the constitution presented and adopted offers a broader basis of organization than was suggested in the petition, namely: “In order to promote our mutual improvement in literature, science and the mechanical arts; —to diffuse a taste for literary, scientific and mechanical pursuits in the community in which we reside;—and to develop the social, moral and intellectual natures with which we arc endowed by one Creator.”
The society took the name “The Bigelow Mechanics’ Institute in Clintonville.” E. B. Bigelow, in whose honor this name had been assumed, in addition to other donations, gave to the society as a recognition of his esteem, the valuable air pump, now used by the Clinton High School, and two hundred dollars to be used for the good of the Institute. A fee of five dollars was charged for membership, and some forty men joined.
At various times, from 1853 to 1873, the Institute also rented out space in the building to the postal service, to the Town of Clinton for its armory and to local businesses. Next door to the Institute, the building at 195 Union Street was built in 1859 to serve as Horatio N. Bigelow‘s private office. The brothers, Horatio N. and Erastus B. Bigelow developed Clinton as an industrial community.
In 1873, the Bigelow Mechanics Institute disbanded and its library was donated to the town to become the Bigelow Free Public Library. The Institute’s old building became a tenement. The adjacent building, H. N. Bigelow’s former office, served as the the Second District Court of Eastern Worcester County from 1886 to 1972, and its basement was the Clinton Police Station until 1969. Both buildings later served as law offices. In recent years the complex has undergone an extensive transformation to house the Museum of Russian Icons, founded in 2006 by art collector and industrialist Gordon B. Lankton. A contemporary, aluminum-clad addition to the museum was constructed in 2008.
East India Marine Hall, on Essex Street in Salem, was constructed in 1824-1825 by the East India Marine Society. The Society had been founded in 1799 as a charitable and educational organization whose membership consisted of ship masters or supercargos who had sailed around either Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope. The Society also maintained a library and a museum, called a “cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities.” The Society rented rooms in the Stearns Block from 1799 to 1804 and, needing more space for its growing collections, in the Salem Bank Building from 1804 to 1825. Again needing more space, the Society moved into the new East India Marine Hall, which was dedicated on October 14, 1825. The building was designed by architect Thomas Waldron Summer. In 1867 the society deposited its collections with the newly established Peabody Academy of Science which also bought the East India Marine Hall. Additions were been made the the Hall over the years as the institution grew into today’s Peabody Essex Museum, but East India Marine Hall has maintained its original appearance. The building’s grand banquet hall is available to rent for events.
In 1946, Old Sturbridge Village built a replica of an 1849 schoolhouse. It stood on the Common, where the Thompson Bank is now located. In 1963, it was moved elsewhere in the Village, where it is now used for historical performances and special programs. The original Dennison Schoolhouse, on Dennison Lane in Southbridge, is now a private residence.
Happy New Year from Historic Buildings of Massachusetts!!! Rising up over Marblehead is one of the town’s most notable landmarks, Abbot Hall, which serves as town hall and also as a museum. Abbot Hall was built through a bequest of Benjamin Abbot (1795-1872), who was born in Marblehead and became wealthy through his cooper business in Boston. In 1875, the town voted to accept his $100,000 bequest and to follow his wishes that part of the legacy be devoted to building Abbot Hall. As related in The History and Traditions of Marblehead (1881), by Samuel Roads, Jr.:
The selection of a site for the new building had for some time occupied the attention of the people, and various localities were strongly advocated through the columns of the local paper. On Saturday, May 22, a town meeting was held for the choice of a site, and a majority of the citizens voted in favor of the Common. Several meetings were held for the election of a building committee, and Messrs. James J. H. Gregory, Simeon Dodge, Moses Gilbert, Henry F. Pitman, and Thomas Appleton were chosen by a majority vote.
In December, the town voted to appropriate $75,000 of the Abbot fund for the erection of the building, and the, committee were instructed to proceed with the work. The opponents of the site chosen by the town, though in the minority, were active and determined in their antagonism; and when, in the spring of 1876, ground was broken on the Common for the erection of the building, a bill in equity was filed in the supreme judicial court to restrain the committee from further proceedings. The bill was based principally on the claim that the town had no legal right to erect the hall on the Common, as the land was the property of the commoners of Marblehead.
The case was tried on Monday, April 17, before Associate Justice Ames, of the supreme judicial court. Hon. Ebenezer R. Hoar appeared as counsel for the town, and Mr. S. B. Ives, Jr., for the petitioners. A decision was rendered in favor of the town, the petitioners being unable to prove an adverse title.
The cornerstone was laid July 25, 1876 and the building, designed by Lord & Fuller of Boston (who also designed the Saugus Town Hall), was dedicated December 12, 1877. Abbot Hall, located at 188 Washington Street, has a historical collection in the Selectmen’s Meeting Room which includes the original version of the painting “The Spirit of ’76” by Archibald M. Willard and the 1684 deed to Marblehead from the tribe of Nanepashemet. The building has a clock tower with a Bell, installed in 1876 and cast by Meneely & Kimberly in Troy, New York.
Although surrounded by eighteenth and nineteenth century period buildings, Bullard Tavern at Old Sturbridge Village was built in 1946-1947. Although resembling an early New England house or tavern, it was not designed as a strictly accurate historical reproduction. Bullard Tavern was built as a service building, originally intended to provide visitor amenities and exhibit space, but it soon became a restaurant. The woodwork in the Tavern’s Tap Room was salvaged from an eighteenth-century house in Brooklyn, Connecticut.
Deerfield Academy was founded in 1797 and a brick building, designed by Asher Benjamin, was built to house the school in 1799. The Academy later expanded and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association purchased the old school building in 1877. The building was renovated and opened in 1880 as the Memorial Hall Museum, displaying a collection of objects gathered by antiquarian George Sheldon. Memorial Hall continues today as a museum of Deerfield history and an adjacent building houses the libraries of the PVMA and Historic Deerfield.