Hartford Library, Hartford, Vermont

The Hartford  Library on Main Street (now named Maple Street) in Hartford, around 1900. Image from The Old and the New.

The building in 2018:

This Queen Anne-style library building was constructed in 1893, in the center of the village of Hartford. It was built thanks to the efforts of several prominent locals, including Horace and Seraph Pease, who donated a parcel of land adjacent to their home, and Ephraim Morris, a woolen manufacturer who gave $5,000 to construct it.

The library was dedicated on September 16, 1893, in a ceremony that included remarks by former governor and Civil War Medal of Honor recipient Samuel E. Pingree. He was a Hartford resident and one of the founders of the library, and he also served on its board of trustees. His comments were followed by the keynote speaker, Dartmouth College President William Tucker, who spoke on “Uses of a Library.”

Upon completion, the library consisted of a reading room on the first floor, and a lecture room, known as Library Hall, on the second floor. At the time, it had about 2,000 books in its collections, but by the early 20th century it had grown to some 4,000. A total of 4,503 books were checked out from the library in 1908, and during its first 15 years in operation the library served 1,550 different patrons here.

The first photo was taken around this time, but very little has changed here in this scene more than a century later. It remains in use as a public library, with around 17,000 items in its collections today, and it is now one of four libraries in the town of Hartford. The exterior of the building has remained well-preserved throughout this time, and in 1994 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Four years later, it also became a part of the Hartford Village Historic District, which encompasses many of the buildings here in the traditional town center of Hartford.

 

Great Hall, Library of Congress, Washington, DC (2)

The Great Hall at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, around 1897. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

The Great Hall at the Library of Congress was previously featured in an earlier blog post, although these photos here show a different angle, facing east toward the entrance to the Main Reading Room. As with the rest of the building, the Great Hall features ornate Beaux-Arts architecture, and it is decorated with symbolic carvings and paintings.

Starting at the bottom of this scene are three arches, which lead to the Main Reading Room. The central arch was designed by sculptor Olin L. Warner, and it features two male figures: one young, representing the search for knowledge, and the other old, representing wisdom and reflection. Above these figures is a tablet inscribed with the names of the people involved in the construction of this building, and the tablet is flanked by a pair of eagles.

On the second floor, the ceiling is supported by pairs of Corinthian columns, connected by more arches. Above each pair of columns in the foreground is a small tablet with the name of a prominent author. From left to right in this scene, they are Cervantes, Hugo, Scott, and Cooper. Further in the distance is another row of columns, and above these are painted figures of women, personifying the different genres of literature. In this scene, from left to right, they are Lyrica, Tragedy, Comedy, and History, and they were all painted by artist George Randolph Barse Jr. Beyond these, at the top of the stairs in the center of the scene, is a mosaic of Minerva, representing learning and wisdom. At 15.5 feet in height, the mosaic is more than double life size, and it was the work of artist Elihu Vedder.

The first photo was taken around 1897, the same year that this building opened. More than 120 years later, hardly anything has changed in this scene, and the Library of Congress remains one of the capital’s great architectural masterpieces, in addition to its role as one of the world’s largest libraries. Most of its collections are only accessible through the Main Reading Room, which requires a Reader Identification Card to enter. However, some of its most important items are on display here in the public parts of the building, including its copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which the library acquired in 1930. It is one of only five complete Gutenberg Bibles in the United States, and one of only 21 worldwide, and it is currently on display here in the Great Hall, just beyond the arch in the lower right corner of the present-day photo.

Main Reading Room, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

The Main Reading Room at the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2018:

As discussed in an earlier post on the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, the Library of Congress is one of the largest libraries in the world, with over 167 million items located in four different buildings in and around Washington, D.C. The original building, which is now named the Thomas Jefferson Building, is here on Capitol Hill, directly opposite the Capitol and adjacent to the Supreme Court Building. The building was completed in 1897, and today it stands as both an important research library and also a significant architectural landmark, with a highly ornate Beaux-Arts design on both the interior and exterior.

The centerpiece of the building is the Main Reading Room, shown here in these two photos. The room is octagonal, with desks arranged in concentric circles and the circulation desk in the center of the room. It is 125 feet in height from the floor to the top of the dome, and the room is surrounded by eight large columns that support the arches beneath the dome.

Above each of these columns is a 10 1/2-foot-tall plaster statue, with each representing a different branch of knowledge. These eight allegorical female figures are Art, Commerce, History, Law, Philosophy, Poetry, Religion, and Science. Just below the tops of the columns is a balustrade that encircles the room, featuring sixteen bronze statues of men who were recognized for their accomplishments in one of these eight fields. They are arranged so that the statues on each side of every column correspond to the representative figure atop the column.

In this particular view, the two allegorical statues are Philosophy on the left, created by sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt; and Art on the right, by Francois M. L. Tonetti-Dozzi. The bronze statues on either side of Philosophy are Plato on the left and Bacon on the right, both by John J. Boyle. On the left side of Art is Michelangelo by Paul Wayland Bartlett, and on the right is Beethoven by Theodore Baur.

The first photo was taken around 1904, less than a decade after this building opened. Since then, the library has significantly expanded, with three additional buildings to house its growing collections, but the Thomas Jefferson Building has remained essentially the same. There have been hardly any changes here in the Main Reading Room in more than a century, and the room remains one of the most impressive interior spaces in Washington.

Today, the Main Reading Room is open only to those who have a Reader Identification Card, which are available for free to researchers over the age of 16. These researchers can only use the materials here in the reading room, though, as only high-ranking government officials are permitted to check out books. Other parts of the building, including the Great Hall, are open to the public, and visitors can also view the Main Reading Room from the gallery where these two photos were taken.

Great Hall, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

The Great Hall in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, around 1900-1901. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The scene in 2018:

The Library of Congress is said to be the largest library in the world, with over 167 million items in its collections. These are housed in four different buildings in and near Washington, D.C., but the oldest of these is the main building, located directly across the street from the Capitol. Completed in 1897, and later named in honor of Thomas Jefferson in 1980, this building includes the main reading room, along with smaller specialized reading rooms and a variety of galleries.

Along with its massive collection of books, though, the Library of Congress also features outstanding Beaux-Arts architecture, on both the interior and exterior. Aside from the Main Reading Room itself, perhaps the single most impressive interior space is here in the Great Hall, where the main staircase is located. As these photos show, the space is lavishly decorated, and it includes a wide variety of works by some of the leading American painters and sculptors of the late 19th century.

This particular view shows the northeastern corner of the great hall. In the lower part of the scene is the staircase, which features carved images of young boys. Known as putti, but often conflated with cherubs, many of these figures represent different occupations, such as a printer, physician, musician, and electrician. Two others sit on opposite sides of a globe, representing Europe and Asia, and several others represent the fine arts. These were all carved by noted sculptor Philip Martiny, whose other works here included the carvings in the corner of the ceiling.

On the far right side of the scene is the arch that leads to the main reading room. It was designed by sculptor Olin L. Warner, and it features a pair of figures, one young and one old, representing knowledge. Directly above the arch is an inscription that recognizes the architects and engineers involved in constructing the library, and the inscription is flanked by a pair of eagles.

Further up in the great hall, the upper portions of the walls are painted with a variety of designs. On the left side of the scene, just to the left of the round windows, are three paintings that feature allegorical depictions of women. From left to right, they represent Understanding, Knowledge, and Philosophy. A fourth figure, just out of view to the left, represents Wisdom. Above these paintings, and around the ceiling of the second level, are a number of printers’ marks, which served as early forms of trademarks beginning in the Renaissance era.

The other noteworthy feature of the great hall is its ceiling. Although only partially visible in these views, it is decorated with murals done by artist Frederic C. Martin, in addition to the corner figures carved by Philip Martiny. Each of these carvings has two winged figures, and in between them is an image of a book and a torch, which represent learning. In the middle of the ceiling are six square skylights, with designs that match the floor of the great hall.

Today, nearly 120 years after the first photo was taken, remarkably little has changed here in the great hall. The building is popular among visitors to Washington, who are able to admire the architecture, explore the nearby exhibits, and view the library’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which is located on the first floor, just out of view beyond the lower right corner of the scene. Overall, the only readily visible change between these two photos is the bust of Thomas Jefferson, which now sits in what had originally been an empty niche beneath the staircase.

Ives Memorial Library, New Haven, Connecticut (3)

The Ives Memorial Library on Elm Street, seen from the New Haven Green, around 1910. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Herbert Randall Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The library in 2018:

This is another view of the Ives Memorial Library, which is the main branch of the New Haven Free Public Library. As discussed in two previous posts here and here, the building was the work of noted architect Cass Gilbert, who designed it to complement the two historic brick churches that stand diagonally across the street from the library. The library was constructed between 1908 and 1911 at the corner of Elm and Temple Streets, and it was named in honor of Mary E. Ives, who gave nearly $400,000 to help pay for the new building.

Today, more than a century after the first photo was taken, much of the surrounding area has changed. The house that is partially visible on the right side has long since been demolished, and the New Haven County Courthouse now stands adjacent to the library. The library itself underwent a major renovation and expansion from 1987 to 1990, including a large brick addition that is partially visible on the far left in the rear of the building. However, the exterior of the original part of the library has been well-preserved over the years, with few noticeable differences between these two photos.

Ives Memorial Library, New Haven, Connecticut (2)

The Ives Memorial Library on Elm Street, seen from the New Haven Green, around 1910-1920. Image courtesy of the Connecticut State Library, Herbert Randall Survey of New Haven and Environs.

The library in 2018:

As discussed in a previous post, the Ives Memorial Library was completed in 1911, at the northeast corner of Elm and Temple Streets. The library had previously been located in the former Third Congregational Church building, but the old church was inadequate as a library. As a result, Mary E. Ives donated $300,000 to the city in 1906, which was soon followed by another $90,000 bequest after her death, and in 1908 construction began on the library building that would be named in her honor. It featured a Colonial Revival-style exterior that was meant to harmonize with the early 19th century churches nearby on the New Haven Green, and it was the work of prominent architect Cass Gilbert, who later went on to design the U. S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D. C.

The first photo was probably taken soon after the building’s completion. At the time, the library had a capacity of about 95,000 books, but it was designed with future expansion in mind, including an undeveloped back lot along Temple Street. The library nearly relocated in the 1970s, but the historic building was ultimately renovated instead. Starting in 1987, the library moved to temporary quarters, and the building underwent and extensive renovation, which included the addition of a large wing in the back. It reopened in 1990, and today it remains in use as the main branch of the New Haven Free Public Library, with hardly any noticeable differences between the two photos.