Holyoke Public Library: Joseph Clough's classic beauty
Hi again all you wonderful history addicts! Sorry about the delay- computer issues all around brought this blog to a standstill. I hope that I am getting my word across. I hope to link to a few local webpages. But I guess until that happens I will just keep on typing! I'll definitely put a link on Wikipedia's Holyoke page so that all of you passing through the marvelous Wikiverse can find me.
As I mentioned yesterday, today's topic is the beautiful and vibrant Holyoke Public Library. You can find it at 235 Maple St in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Do go see it, they simply don't build them like this anymore! The entire building, inside and out, was the vision of one man: Joseph Clough. I remember the first moment I walked into that library I was awestruck!
Come with me while I take you on a tour of this wonderful building.(Bear with me, my MA in Art History is going to take control of my fingers here!)
Holyoke Public Library, one of the very few examples of neo-classic architecture in the city of Holyoke, sits firmly on Library Park, which was donated by the Holyoke Water Power Company in 1887. Holyoke's citizens were charged to raise money to construct the library building and provide additional books. Under the leadership of Henry Chase $95,000 was raised. William Whiting and William Skinner, both of whom are important businessmen who will find their way into this blog, each gave $10,000 each. Joseph Clough, the architect in charge of designing the building, gave his services gratis because his daughter was a faithful patron of the library.
It was meant to be a symbol of learning, a formidable structure set apart from its surroundings. I believe that it succeeds in this goal.
After going through a gigantic wooden portal flanked on either side by ionic columns you arrive in a spacious lobby surrounded by an intricately carved mezanine. The walls, which used to be a less than savory color of terracota, have been turned into vibrant pallates as they are covered with Santi Graziani's mural series on Holyoke's history. (If you would like I can spend more time discussing them)
Yet no matter how stunning these murals were andno matter how much they enlived a rather plain lobby, the greatest visual change that has occured at Holyoke Public Library to date was the movement of the Circulation Desk from in between the pillars that stand before the doors to the stacks to its current placement. Before 1933, the stacks were closed. Patrons did not have the option of browsing the collection as they can today. Rather, they were required to make their requests known and a staff member went to get the books. (And the Director's office was upstairs in an unaccessible office, behind the scenes and removed from the flow of day-to-day activity instead of being right in the midst of everything as it is today)
The effect of the grand lobby was much more grand back then of course. The floor where the current desk stands was open. This was used as a exhibition area at times, or, as shown in this picture, as a beautiful seating area. And the partitions between the current Reference and Chidren's areas were not built yet.
By 1933, the philosophy of libraries had changed. Access became just as important as preservation of the collection. The circulation desk was moved out to its current position and was enlarged to provide for better service in the round. The erudite, grand nature of the library had been toned down a bit, but really, libraries should be homey places rather than temples to learning. This photograph was taken on the first day that the stacks were open in 1933.
Oh, I could go on and on about the history of this building and the world surrounding it. I could talk about the Holyoke Museum and the famous frog circus, about the paintings that hung on the walls. But I think that this will be it for today. I hope you enjoy these jaunts through history as much as I do.
Tune in next time for: Holyoke History finds a Temporary Home at HCC