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Thomas Crane Memorial Library

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1882, Henry Hobson Richardson and Frederick Law Olmsted; 1908, William M. Aiken; 1939, Paul and Carroll Coletti; 2001, CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares. 40 Washington St.
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • Thomas Crane Memorial Library (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

Simplicity in plan and elevation characterize this library, the third in a series of five by H. H. Richardson for Boston suburbs and “the best Village library in the United States,” according to an anonymous reviewer in “The Crane Library” in Harper's Weekly (1883). Using Quincy and North Easton granite with Longmeadow brownstone trim, Richardson projected the functions of each section on the main elevation. The entrance arch yawns within a gabled pavilion, flanked by the convex stair tower to the left. The reading room at right is lit by a vertical band of windows; the book room to the left is defined by a horizontal run of clerestory lights; eyelid dormers gently lift the plain of the red slate roof. Within, an uninterrupted two-story space runs from the massive chimneybreast of the reading room to the wall of windows at the far end of the book room, visually connected by the beamed ceiling and uniform white pine woodwork. Frederick Law Olmsted designed the landscape setting for the Richardson building. John La Farge created two stained glass memorials for the library— The Old Philosopher (1880–1882) and Angel at the Tomb (1889–1890).

The resolved simplicity of the original building has been extended and complicated by three major additions, all attempting to reinterpret the Richardson design. First, William M. Aiken projected a rear three-level book room ell (1908) with generous side fenestration and a rear wall of stained glass panels, perhaps to answer the criticism of the dark interior in the Richardson building. With the assistance of a Works Progress Administration grant, the Albert Crane Memorial wing rose to designs of Paul and Carroll Coletti in 1939. Doubling the size of the earlier building, this addition is set to the right, perpendicular to the Richardson building and connected by a two-story hyphen. Brownstone bas-reliefs by Joseph A. Coletti depicting the Quincy granite and shipbuilding industries flank the new entrance. Through that doorway one now enters the remodeled Coletti building that extends into a major addition (2001) by CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares, the most recent restatement of the Richardsonian Romanesque formula. It incorporates expanded book storage and administrative space on the first and second levels, and a new children's room, café, and lecture hall at the basement level. A rose granite base with steel relieving arches supports the upper levels of brick and brownstone-colored cast-stone trim.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Thomas Crane Memorial Library", [Quincy, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 553-554.

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