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Reading Common

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1913–1958. Main and West sts.
  • Reading Common (Keith Morgan)

Reading defined the boundaries of its common in 1745. The town raised its first meetinghouse in 1769, and replaced it by a second structure in 1818, which burned in 1911. (The church became Old South United Methodist Church in 1887.) Boston architect Winthrop Parker, who lived in Reading, designed in 1913 a new church, the current white-painted clap-boarded structure with central tower and steeple, to replicate (while widening) the burned building. The 1818 building had been based upon the church in Wayland, which in turn had been modeled on the famous design published in the builder's guides of Asher Benjamin. The republication of Benjamin's early books at that time would have provided the architect with additional source material. The parish house on the west side of the church was added in 1958.

Reading maintained the Common as the center of the community with the construction of the library and town hall facing the west side of the Common. The importance of both buildings led to the involvement of several architects who lived in Reading. Horace Wadlin, former librarian of the Boston Public Library, as well as a former architect, prepared preliminary drawings for Reading in 1915 in order to apply for funds from the Carnegie Corporation. The firm of Adden and Parker revised and completed the plans for the Georgian Revival–style building in 1916. The town voted to accept a $15,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation to construct a one-story brick building with a steeply pitched hipped roof.

For Town Hall, built at the same time as the library, Adden and Parker collaborated with a third Boston architect and Reading resident, George Sidebottom of Prescott and Sidebottom. This two-story building has a cupola, a central pavilion with a full pediment ornamented with festoons and swags in the tympanum, and a broken scroll pedimented entrance. As described at the time, both buildings were intended to have a “harmonious skyline around the Common.” Landscape architects Percival Gallagher of the Olmsted Brothers and Warren Manning, a former Reading resident, consulted on the siting of the buildings. Their principal advice was to locate the town hall somewhat above the smaller library so that the other did not hide it from view.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Reading Common", [Reading, 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, 389-389.

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