Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America

Butte, Montana
Carnegie Libraries Other Public Libraries Libraries of New England
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My distinction between Richardson Romanesque and Romanesque Revival may not be the same as yours, nor the same as an architect's. Some of these cards appear on other pages in this site, especially when they have an especially interesting history that I thought merits further information.

Unless noted, none of these are Carnegie buildings. Many of these impressive stone libraries predate the Carnegie era. Perhaps these are the libraries which instilled phobias in susceptible children.

Great examples of Richardson Romanesque library buildings from the lands of Louis Sullivan include Menomonie (WI) and the Gail Borden Public Library (Elgin, IL).

Richardsonian Romanesque

Facts from the Boston College website:
Henry Hobson Richardson (1838-1886). (Obviously, the man cannot have designed all these buildings.) Definitive building: Trinity Church, Boston. Followers: Charles Follen McKim, Stanford White, Louis Sullivan, John Wellborn Root.

Quote from Professor Jeffery Howe's BC site:
Richardsonian Romanesque (1870-1895)
Style named for Henry Hobson Richardson. ... It is a revival based on French and Spanish Romanesque precedents of the 11th Century. ... Richardson's style is characterized by massive stone walls and dramatic semicircular arches, and a new dynamism of interior space. Continuity and unity are keynotes of Richardson's style. ... the style had a powerful effect on such Chicago architects as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and influenced architects as far away as Scandinavia.
Ellipses and emphases mine.

 New England

Thomas Crane Public Library, Quincy, Massachusetts

Thomas Crane PL, Quincy, MA Thomas Crane PL, Quincy, MA

Designed by H.H. Richardson himself.
Built in 1882;
Coletti addition, 1938;
renovated 2001.
You can see touches of English Tudor in the eyebrow windows, and precursors of Prairie Style in the windows that are snugged up to the roofline.

(L) Curt Teich postcard.
(R) Late Tichnor Bros. 'Lusterchrome' card mailed 1967.

Everett, MA

Amesbury, MA

Somerville, MA

Everett, MA Library Amesbury, MA Library Somerville, MA Library
Card dated Oct. 16, 1908. Published by the Leighton and Valentine Co. of New York. Quality similar to the German imports. Imposing.
Cornerstone dates the building to 1884.

Dedham, MA

Pittsfield, MA

Northampton, MA

Dedham, MA Library Pittsfield, MA Library Northampton, MA Library
From the home of Dedham pottery. I can picture this building in cobalt and white. What a beautiful building!
Built in 1872, it is also known as the Berkshire Athenaeum,
and has also served as a museum. The new library is next door.
Forbes Library may have inspired the spectator pump.

Lawrence, MA

Lowell, MA

Wellesley, MA

Lawrence, MA Library Lowell, MA Library Wellesley, MA Public Library
Definitive Romanesque structure. Library and Memorial Building. Tichnor card. Public Library, Wellesley, Mass.

Bridgewater, MA

Bridgewater, MA Library

Ogunquit, ME

Westbrook, ME

Eastport, ME

Ogunquit, ME Memorial Library Westbrook, ME Library Eastport, ME Library
Memorial Library Also a Memorial Library Peavey Memorial Library

Portland, ME

Auburn, ME

Calais, ME

Portland, ME library Auburn, ME Carnegie Library Calais, ME library
No traces of the facade of this library remain.
To the right of the library is the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which today is open as a museum.
Big library. Small city.
Card dates between 1907 and 1910.
Although the card has an entire back and was printed in Germany, there is a hand stamp of JUN 9 1931.

Clinton, ME

Clinton, ME library Monochrome card mailed 1906.
Color card has entire back. Close examination indicates that the red walls are retouched. This card seems to be produced by the same folks that brought you the color Waukesha, WI card.
Clinton, ME library

Brattleboro, VT

Hardwick, VT

Rutland, VT

Brattleboro, VT library Hardwick, VT Library Rutland, Vt library
Brooks LibraryJeudevine LibraryBaxter Memorial Library

Watertown, CT

Milford, CT

Winsted, CT

Watertown, CT Library Taylor Library, Milford, CT Winsted, CT Memorial Library
Some Gothic touches. Taylor Library Memorial Library

Westerly, RI

Westerley, RI Library and Broad St.
Library and Broad St.
Pen date: 1911

 New York


Buffalo library

Beautiful building.

Never having been to Buffalo, I can't figure out which building this was. I have learned, however, that the city and Erie County system merged in 1953 due to economic reasons. 1953 seems an odd year for an economic meltdown.

The 1963 replacement building housed the collections of Buffalo Public and the Grosvenor Libraries.


Probably due to settlement patterns and city growth, the number of large Romanesque buildings seems lower in the central US.

Northfield, Minnesota

Memphis, Tennessee

South Bend, Indiana

Entire back, postmarked 1907.Curt Teich card. No postmark, but cars appear to be from the late '20s. Some gothic elements, especially in the spires and the 'Library of South Bend' carving.

Muscatine, IA

Kalamazoo, MI

Toledo, OH

Another of my favorite cards.
Card itself dates from between 1907 (divided back) and 1917 (made in Germany). However, the photograph must date from significantly earlier.
What a great juxtaposition of stone library and sprightly art deco display case! This Curteich C.T. Art-Colortone card was sent in 1942. Apparently the building has been replaced; however, the library's website shows several sprightly branch libraries. This is the old Toledo Library. The newer, Art Deco library was not an improvement.

Muskegon, MI

Saginaw, MI

Toledo, OH

AKA Hackley Library.
'On foundation stone "Library founded by Charles H. Hackley May 25, 1888. 'The possession of the living. The heritage of posterity."
It cost $150 000 is built of Maine granite.'
AKA Hoyt Library.
Another one of those two-toned models, lightening up the Gothic nature of the building.
Glitterized, by the Illustrated Post Card Co. of New York.
Some people can't be trusted with glue.

Dayton, OH

Ypsilanti, MI

Trenton, MO

Linen-finsh card, newer than that below.
Dayton's branches were Carnegie buildings.
Ladies' Library

Made small, ya'know, for the Ladies.
Still standing. Ladies live longer.
Jewett Norris Library
Incredible Missouri example that needs more stone.

Paola, KS

York, KS

Compact version. Archway and towers are the most obvious features.

Dayton, OH

Beaver Dam, WI

LaCrosse, WI

Pontiac, IL

Quincy, IL

This was the main Dayton library. AKA Williams Free Library. AKA Washburn Public Library. Replaced in 1952. Now the Gardner Museum of Architecture.


These are few and far between.

Billings, MT

Built 1901 in memory of Parmly Billings. In use until 1969: current status unknown.

Library serves the city of Billings and surrounding Yellowstone County, plus Golden Valley County. Visit its website to see its nifty herd of Bookmobiles.

(L) Details on this 1907 card include the local McCormick-Seeley Dealer.
(R) There are even more interesting details in this (unevenly divided) card, including a railroad car, Yegen Bros. Cold Storage, and in the foreground, a telephone pole stuck with flyers.

Butte, MT

Butte Free Library

All the stops were pulled for this beauty.

A second view of the Butte Free Public library is in the upper left corner of this page. The entire back card was mailed in 1907.

Helena, MT

Contains a smattering of the Gothic.

Built in 1886, and this was the second Helena library. Rather impressive to those whose knowledge of the late 1880s frontier is shaped by the series Deadwood. It was replaced in 1933, moving into a former Unitarian church. The current building, the Lewis and Clark Library, was built in 1976.

The card has an unevenly divided back: the trees on the photo look to be about 10 years old.

Santa Rosa, CA

1904 - 1964
This was a rare Romanesque Carnegie building, damaged in the 1906 earthquake and condemned in 1960. It must not have been as sturdy as it looked.

Romanesque Revival

Simpler renditions; more 'modern' to 21st Century eyes.

Chester, VT

Whiting Library

Dover, NH

Whiting Library has a lending library on simple living, from the Vermont Earth Institute. Artistic production values of the German lithographer obscure the lines between Romanesque and Romanesque Revival.

©2006-10 Judy Aulik

Split off on 07 March 2006.
Updated 04 December 2010.