I've been to Boston almost a dozen times but for some reason, I never ventured into the Boston Public Library (which is strange, because I love books and I love reading). On my latest visit, I decided to pay this venerable library a visit and brought along my camera. My visit was on a Sunday, when the library opened at 1PM. I waited outside the front door for about fifteen minutes, during which a line formed to enter the library. Once the front door was open, it was interesting to see people scamper to different parts of the library--some headed to the computers, others went to the music listening station, and others climbed the stairs to the second and third floors to pick out a table on which to set materials for a healthy study session.
History of the Boston Public Library
The Boston Landmarks Commission provides the following historical overview of the main building of the Boston Public Library, located at 700 Boylston Street, Boston MA 02116.
Interesting bit of trivia: the Boston Public Library is the second largest library in the United States by the number of volumes it contains, second only to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps the most well-known section of the Boston Public Library is the Bates Hall. Bates Hall is named for the library's first great benefactor, Joshua Bates. The form of Bates Hall, rectilinear but terminated with a semi-circular apse on each end is a reminder to the design of a Roman basilica. A series of double coffers in the ceiling provide a sculptural canopy to the room.
The Grand Staircase and the Lion Sculptures
On the edge of the grand staircase in the Boston Public Library one will come across two lion sculptures. The two lion sculptures were executed by Louis St. Gaudens, each from a single block of Sienna marble.
Inscribed at the bottom of the sculpture are the names of the battles fought by the 2nd and the 20th Massachusetts regiments: Ball's Bluff, Antietam, and Gettysburg. The veterans of the 20th Massachusetts and the 2nd Massachusetts regiments commissioned the two lion sculptures.
Exterior Courtyard and Other Views
Nestled into the Boston Public Library's center is an open-air courtyard closely based on that of the sixteenth-century Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Designed in the manner of a Renaissance cloister, the courtyard is surrounded by an arcaded gallery. In the middle of the courtyard is a small plaza with a square fountain basin. At the center of the basin is Frederick William Macmonnies’ Dancing Bacchante and Infant Faun atop a granite plinth, surrounded by a circle of water fountains.
If You Go
The Boston Public Library (central location, known as the Boston Public Library McKim Building) is located in Copley Square of Boston (700 Boylston Street) and is open Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM, 9AM to 5PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 1PM to 5PM on Sundays. The Library is closed on public holidays (full list of closures here).
I highly recommend visiting an ongoing exhibition at the Boston Public Library titled Breathing Room: Mapping Boston's Public Spaces located within the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center. This exhibition profiles some of wonderful green spaces of Boston (such as Boston Common and the Boston Public Garden) through time. This exhibition runs through September 30, 2018.