Archive for the ‘The Politics’ Category

The People and Politics
Few public libraries in the country have a more storied history than that of the Thomas Crane Memorial Library. That history began in the 1870s with a series of events involving three men, each of whom leaves an enduring legacy in this city:

Quincy native Charles Francis Adams—grandson of second U.S. president John Adams—-and chairman of the Quincy Library’s Board of Trustees for 19 years. Albert Crane, whose father Thomas Crane took the money he earned in the Quincy granite quarries to New York City, where he made a fortune investing in real estate. And Henry Hobson Richardson, friend of the Adams family and America’s first celebrity architect.

In 1879, when the city’s library was housed in the vacant Evangelical Congregational Church on the corner of Hancock and Revere Streets, Charles Francis Adams wrote in his annual report to the Library Board of Trustees that “the great need of this institution is a commodious and better adapted library room, in a more central part of the town.”

Adams’ hope that such space would come in the form of a building donated to the city was realized only a few months later when Albert Crane, who had never lived in Quincy, contacted Adams about building a library there in memory of his father, Thomas Crane.

The architect that the Crane family chose to design the memorial was Henry Hobson Richardson, then and still regarded as the foremost architect of his era.

The Crane Library is as important as anything else in Quincy, including the John Adams Family Mansion, and the United First Parish Church, designed by the famous architect Alexander Parris, where U.S. presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams and their two wives are entombed. “People come to Quincy,” says art historian James O’Gorman, “just to look at the library.”

Even after Adams’ tenure as Chair of the Library Board of Trustees ended, the Crane family continued its involvement in the Crane Memorial Library, funding the 1908 addition to the Richardson building, which consisted of an ell, designed by architect William M. Aiken. In addition to creating more space, the wall of stained glass “bookplates” at the end of the Aiken wing allowed in more natural light.

Throughout this period, Albert Crane kept up a lively correspondence with library officials regarding everything from the placement of artwork and portraits within the library, to comments on the Annual Library Reports and events of the time. In a letter dated 1908, Crane complimented library director George Morton on the Aiken addition. “When prosperity returns,” Crane writes, “and my financial reservoir has begun to receive some rills of revenue, I want to increase a little that fund which you have called by my name if it is not exhausted.”

Even today, the generosity and vision of the Cranes, the Adams, and H.H. Richardson continues to benefit The Thomas Crane Memorial Library and the City of Quincy. The first money down on the CBT addition came from that fund to which Crane referred in his letter. And because it is considered H.H. Richardson’s masterpiece of library design, the original library building will always draw the attention and recognition of art historians, as well as the admiration of ordinary people who appreciate the power and simplicity of its design.

Finally, especially among the people of Quincy, the library’s ties to John and Abigail Adams—both voracious readers whose voices and letters helped define the principles of American democracy—serve as a reminder of how essential books are to an understanding of ourselves and the times in which we live.


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