With monumental Indiana sandstone Ionic columns, Midwest cream brick, and stained glass lighting a rotunda beneath its dome, the Bixby library is a state landmark, in part because it is so atypical of Vermont. Located on a prime, sloping site overlooking the falls and with views to the Adirondacks, this Beaux-Arts building has been an anchor of Main Street and local pride since its completion.
In his 1907 will, Vergennes businessman William Gove Bixby left three hundred thousand dollars to build a library in his native city. The library committee selected Trowbridge and Livingston, with G. Frederick Frost as designer, and builder W. Sheldon Swallow Company, all of New York City. The cornerstone was laid on September 21, 1911, and the building was dedicated October 12, 1912. The total cost was eighty thousand dollars.
Though small by urban standards, the Bixby is considerably larger than most Vermont community libraries of this period. Basically a small Pantheon-with-wings building in the McKim, Mead and White mode, it has a monumental portico, oversized entrance, central dome, and a porch on the south wing. These features were much in the mainstream of American Beaux-Arts public building of the Progressive Era. The period interiors convey a sense of grandeur with a central reading room lit by a dome of purple, yellow, and green stained glass, and windows in the curved west wall. Paired cast-iron columns, cast in scagliola, support a second-floor gallery in the rotunda.