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The Boston Public Library, Part IV

Originally established at 3A North Bennett Street in 1913, the North End Branch relocated to its present site at 25 Parmenter Street in May of 1965. Carl Koch and Associates designed the building in the manner of a Roman villa. Peabody Construction Company built it.

As one would expect of a Roman villa, there is courtyard at the center of the building adorned with plants and a (small) pool. The building's exterior is of red brick.

The B.P.L. stated, “Thanks to a grant from the Browne Fund the entrance to the library was recently redesigned by landscape architect, Elena Saporta and artist Tom O’Connel to give the library entrance way a more open and inviting feeling. One of the outstanding features of the building is a scale model of the Ducal Palace in Venice. Largely constructed by Henrietta Macy before her death and completed by Louise Stimson of Concord, Massachusetts, the diorama was donated to the Boston Public Library by Nina C. Mitchell of Sheperdstown, West Virginia.”

The North End Branch also boasts a white marble bas-relief of Dante Alighieri (1269-1321), author of The Divine Comedy, which was donated to the Central Library in 1913 and later moved to the North End Branch.

North End is north of downtown Boston. It is far north as one can go in Boston without crossing water, though if one does cross water one can reach Charlestown to the north and East Boston to the northeast. The body of water in question is the juncture of the Boston Inner Harbor, the Mystic River, and Charles River.

This neighborhood has been continuously occupied since the 1630s. In the 20th Century, the residents were predominantly Italian. Today, about one-third of residents are of Italian descent.

The Parker Hill Branch first opened in a rented space at 1518 Tremont Street in July of 1907. It remained in that location until May of 1931 when Mayor James Michael Curley opened the new branch 1497 Tremont Street in the Roxbury neighborhood. [Roxbury is south of South End, west of Mid Dorchester, north of Mattapan, and southeast of Mission Hill, and northeast of Jamaica Plain.] Famed architect Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) had designed it in 1929.

Cram appeared on the cover of Time in 1926 and was heralded as Boston's foremost architect. He left a significant impact on the area having designed many buildings and churches including All Saint's Church in Brookline, the Japanese Garden Court at the Museum of Fine Arts, the John W. McCormack Post Office and Courthouse, and the Second Unitarian Church in Boston.

He also designed the St. Thomas Church in New York City. The Parker Hill Branch Library resembles a Norman manor house. The B.P.L. stated, “Many have said that the Parker Hill Branch has a church-like feel to it - it is open and airy with many lovely details such as plaster rosettes on the ceiling. The branch is noted for its unique local history collection.”

The outside of the building has the carved seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on one side and the seal of the City of Boston on the other. Over the door is a carved seal of the Boston Public Library.

The B.P.L. stated, “Sunlight shines through the tiny window-panes on the heavy oak tables making the library a pleasant place to spend the afternoon. In July 2001 artwork by Jessica Finch was installed above the windows in the Children's Room. In the front yard Dolly’s Garden was planted in memory of Dolly DeSimone, who was children’s librarian at Parker Hill Branch for more than twenty years.”

Library service has been provided to Roslindale, which is south of Jamaica Plain, north of Hyde Park, east of West Roxbury, and west of Mattapan, since 1898. At that time, a book delivery station was located in a drugstore at the corner of Washington and Ashland Streets.

Patrons could request books and they would be delivered from the Central Library. In 1900, the library moved to the Old Taft's Tavern building.

In 1918, having outgrown its quarters, the library branch moved to the municipal building at the corner of Washington Street and Cummins Highway. When this municipal facility became outmoded, the B.P.L. made plans to move the branch again.

To make way for the Roslindale Branch Library at 4246 Washington Street, a fire house at the corner of Washington and Poplar Streets had to be demolished. In 1961, Isidor Richmond and Carny Goldberg designed a semi-circular building with large glass windows, topped with a low blue dome. “Built on the fire house's thick foundation, the architects had to surmount the problems of a pentagonal-shaped lot and an underground brook,” the B.P.L. stated.

The South Boston Branch first opened in a building at 372 West Broadway April of 1872. It was the second branch library established in the U.S.A. South Boston is east of South End, northeast of Roxbury, and north of Mid Dorchester.

The B.P.L. refers to this structure as “the Masonic building.” It is referred to in the Official Catalogue and the Boston 1915 Year a “Masonic Hall.” However, the St. Paul’s – Algonquin Lodge F. & A.M. (Free and Accepted Masons), which formed from the merger of St. Paul’s Lodge F. & A.M. and the Algonquin Lodge, identifies the building at 372 West Broadway where St. Paul’s Lodge held meetings as the “South Boston Savings Bank Building.”

In any event, when the building was sold in 1948 the South Boston Branch closed. In response to high demand, the South Boston Branch re-opened in June of 1950 in a storefront at 385-8 West Broadway, which is where it remained until destroyed by fire in May of 1957. The present red brick building at 646 East Broadway represents a consolidation of the City Point Branch with the South Boston Branch.

In 1904, the Uphams Corner Branch moved from a temporary store-front location on Dudley Street to the two-year-old municipal building at 500 Columbia Road. This is another branch in Dorchester.

The B.P.L. stated, “Upon entering the building, the adult room was on the left, a floor above the swimming pool, and the children's room used a common area on the right side of the hall. When the swimming pool developed leaks and fell into disuse for some time, the children's room took occupancy in this space. It maintained a separate entrance and circulation desk until the 1970s. After renovations to the building in 1989, only one entrance to the branch remained -- through the adult room. Many residents still recall the swimming pool and public showers of their childhood.”

Library service in Boston’s West End was initiated in 1894 with the conversion of the Old West Church on the corner of Cambridge and Lynde Streets to library use. The West End Branch opened in February of 1896.

West End is west of North End, north of Boston Common, and northwest of Downtown Boston. The Charles River separates it from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The West End Redevelopment Project necessitated closing the West End Branch in 1960. As part of the project a new building at 151 Cambridge Street designed by Maginnis, Walsh and Kennedy opened in January of 1968.

In 1876 the B.P.L. created a delivery station when it took over the collection of the West Roxbury Free Library. In 1896 it became a full branch of the B.P.L. In 1921-22 a new library building was built at the present site, 1961 Centre Street.

West Roxbury is the southwestern most neighborhood in Boston. It is west of Roslindale, southwest of Jamaica Plain, and northwest of Hyde Park.

In 1977, a fire destroyed the neighboring West Roxbury Congregational Church and the land was deeded to the Trustees of the Boston Public Library for the purpose of an addition to the West Roxbury Branch Library. On September 24, 1989 the new addition opened to the public with community rooms, a gallery, and a reading garden. The branch is home to the West Roxbury Historical Society.

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