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The Boston Public Library, Part III

The Hyde Park Branch Library at 35 Harvard Avenue in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston is another example of a branch that originally was a municipal library of a suburb. In 1873, the Town of Hyde Park opened the first iteration in Cobb’s building on Everett Square in downtown Hyde Park.

In 1884, the Hyde Park Public Library moved to larger quarters in the Masonic Block at the corner of Harvard Avenue and River Street. In December of 1898, ground broke for the Beaux Arts style building.

It opened in September of 1899. The Hyde Park Public Library became the Hyde Park Branch of the Boston Public Library thirteen years later when Boston annexed Hyde Park in 1912. This is the last time Boston annexed one of its suburbs.

The B.P.L. stated, “The marble fireplace, high ceilings, and turn of the century details have charmed patrons for generations.” In 1997 ground was broken for a new addition. Schwartz/Silver Architects designed the addition and renovation of the existent building.

The project doubled the size of the Hyde Park Branch. A grand re-opening ceremony with Mayor Thomas M. Menino was held in January of 2000.

In May of 2006, the Hyde Park Branch was awarded a 2006 Best Accessible Design Award. This award, sponsored jointly by the Boston Society of Architects and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board, honors the design and construction of facilities which provide access to disabled people.

On her blog “Lacquered Life,” Charleston resident Olivia Brock placed the addition to the Hyde Park Branch Library on a list with the glass pyramid in front of the Louvre, the new wings of the Akademia Park Officium in Budapest, the Space Asia Hub (comprised of a glass addition to a white bungalow) in Singapore, and the addition to the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. She wrote, in part, “Without delving too far into preservation theory… these contemporary additions to historic buildings place huge emphasis on the idea that we should not falsify history. An addition… makes it very clear to the visitor/viewer which part of the building is old, and which part of the building is new; whereas in an addition which utilized classical building technique, the relative age of the two structures would not be apparent to the passerby.”

The Jamaica Plain Branch began in June of 1876, as a small reading room in Curtis Hall, with books supplied by the Roxbury Branch of the B.P.L. In September of 1877, it expanded and became the first B.P.L. branch to purchase books from public funds.
After a fire in 1908, the present brick building at 12 Sedgwick Street in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood was constructed. The B.P.L. stated, “The architecturally distinctive building features large schoolhouse windows and two fireplaces.”
It opened on July 24, 1911. An addition was built in 1936. The interior was remodeled in 1963.

Library service in the Lower Mills district of the Dorchester neighborhood began through a branch delivery post in 1875. It was open three hours each day to take requests for books and to deliver books requested from the Central Library and the Dorchester Branch.

Full branch services began in 1876 with a dedicated collection and expanded hours. In 1883, branch service was moved into the vacated Blue Hills Bank building. In 1931, space owned by the American Legion was purchased and in 1936 a small addition was completed.

Eventually the collection outgrew that building and the present Lower Mills Branch building opened at 27 Richmond Street in the Dorchester neighborhood in 1981. In 2005, the branch underwent renovation, a new façade was designed, and the heating and cooling systems were up-dated. The B.P.L. stated, “The building in general got a ‘face lift’ and is bright and airy.”

The Lower Mills Branch has a particularly strong collection of mystery novels. It is also building its collections of medical and general reference books for the benefit of students in the neighborhood’s medical and other tertiary schools. It has collections on Dorchester history in general and the Lower Mills district in particular.

Mattapan is another district of Dorchester. Increase S. Smith founded the Mattapan Library Association on December 18, 1849.
In 1870, Boston annexed the suburb of Dorchester. The Mattapan Branch Library began with a reading room attached to the delivery station in the Oakland Hall Building in Mattapan. In 1898, the book collection consisted of ninety-eight volumes.
Around 1924, the population of Mattapan began to increase rapidly. As newer groups began to establish themselves in the more central Boston neighborhoods, Jewish immigrants began to settle in Mattapan in large numbers.

The B.P.L. bestowed branch status on that small reading room in Mattapan in 1923, but it could not meet the demand of the growing population. Annual circulation climbed from 20,000 volumes in 1924 to 75,010 in 1926.

Mattapan residents began to organize to petition authorities for a new library. On June 22, 1931, the Mattapan Library Branch at 10 Hazelton Street opened its doors.

The Hazelton Street branch served the neighborhood for over seventy-five years. The formation of a Mattapan Library Task Force, the acquisition of necessary funding in 1997, and the perseverance of Mayor Thomas Menino and Councilor Charles Yancey led to construction of the current iteration. The B.P.L. stated, “On February 28, 2009 the Mattapan community celebrated the opening of an architecturally-stunning, technologically enhanced, and service-rich new Mattapan Branch at 1350 Blue Hill Avenue.”

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