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Posts Tagged ‘Albert Crane’

THOMAS CRANE NEVER SAW THE LIBRARY THAT BEARS HIS NAME

Born on Georges Island in Boston Harbor in 1803, Crane was seven years old when his family moved to Quincy. He was 26 when he left the Quincy granite quarries and went to New York City where he became one of that city’s leading stone contractors, and amassed a fortune in building and real estate.

Even though he had only lived in Quincy for 19 years, Crane’s affection for this city prompted his son Albert Crane, one of eight children, to donate almost a quarter of a million dollars for a library named and endowed in honor of his father. By the time the Thomas Crane Memorial Library opened in 1882, Thomas Crane had been dead for seven years.

In his keynote address at the library’s dedication, Charles Francis Adams Jr. described Thomas Crane as a man remarkable for his unwavering virtue:

“Thomas Crane,” said Adams, preserved, “amid all temptations, his New England birthright traits of simplicity, thrift, straightforward honesty, and deep religious feeling.”

Certainly no one can question Crane’s devotion to hard work and religion. As a child Crane and his five siblings walked four miles each way to school in Quincy. At the age of 15, when his father died, Crane began his apprenticeship in the Quincy granite quarries to help support his family. One of the early adherents to the liberal religious doctrine of Universalism, Crane also used to walk the twenty mile round trip from Quincy to Boston every Sunday to hear Hosea Ballou preaching the tenets of humanitarianism.

“Not that many people seem to know who Thomas Crane is,” says children’s library staff member Gail Columbare, opening a manila folder that bristles with articles she’s collected about the man for whom the library is named. She picks up a grainy picture of Crane’s portrait that hangs in the Trustees Room on the third floor, and studies Crane’s stern but handsome face.

Like many people familiar with the Library’s history, Columbare thinks of Crane as one of this city’s native sons. “Most people don’t know that he lived in Quincy Point,” she says. “Even though he was born on Georges Island, he was a real Quincy boy. And even after he left and made a fortune, he was a man who remembered his roots.”

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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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The Making of the Thomas Crane Public Library

The nation’s first public library opened in Peterborough, New Hampshire in 1835. In 1848 legislation was passed to establish such an institution in Boston, and extended to other communities in Massachusetts in 1851. By 1870 there were eighty free public libraries in this state.

1871: The citizens of Quincy vote at Town Meeting to appropriate $1000 for the salary of a librarian and maintenance of a building, and an additional sum of $2500 on the condition that an equal amount be raised by private subscription. In December, the Quincy Public Library opened in the north room of the Adams Academy Building with a collection of 4,607 volumes.

1874: The library relocated to the vacant Evangelical Congregational Church at the corner of Hancock Street and Revere Road; this after a possible short residence in Town Hall.

1875: Charles Francis Adams Jr., great grandson of President John Adams, began his nineteen-year chairmanship of the Board of Trustees.

1880: Town Meeting approved a $20,000 bequest from Albert Crane to erect a public library building as a memorial to his late father, Thomas Crane.

1882: Dedication ceremonies of the completed Crane Memorial Hall were held on May 30th. The library opened with a collection of 12,000 volumes.

1908: First addition to the library opened, again through the generosity of Albert Crane. The collection had grown to over 25,000 volumes.

1939: The new main addition to the library opens, financed by Crane family funds and a grant from the United States Public Works Administration.

1952: The 1939 addition was dedicated as the Albert Crane Memorial Wing.

2001: The newest addition to the library opens with a collection of 139,908 and a capacity of 244,000 volumes.

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