A Visit to Boston – Day Three – Boston Public Library

As I arrived in Copley Square this was the first building I encountered: The wonderful Boston Public Library.

The library’s website provides the following information:

Established in 1848 by an act of the General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. In 1839, French ventriloquist M. Nicholas Marie Alexandre Vattemare became the original advocate for a public library in Boston when he proposed the idea of a book and prints exchange between American and French libraries. The Mayor of the City of Boston, Josiah Quincy, Jr., first president of the Board of Trustees, Edward Everett, and his successor, George Ticknor, were also at the forefront of the library’s establishment.

Boston Public Library’s first building of its own was a former schoolhouse located on Mason Street that opened to the public on March 20, 1854. However, it was obvious from opening day that the quarters were inadequate for the library’s collection of sixteen thousand volumes. In December 1854, library commissioners were authorized to locate a new building on a lot on Boylston Street, which opened in 1858 at 55 Boylston Street with seventy thousand volumes. Twenty years later, as the library outgrew that space, the Trustees asked the state legislature for a plot in the newly filled Back Bay. On April 22, 1880, the state granted the City of Boston a lot at the corner of Dartmouth and Boylston Streets.

Charles Follen McKim of McKim, Meade, and White was appointed the principal architect in 1887 for the new building. The present Central Library in Copley Square has been home to the library and has served as its headquarters since 1895, when Charles Follen McKim completed his “palace for the people.”

In 1986, the National Park Service designated the McKim building a National Historic Landmark, citing it as “the first outstanding example of Renaissance Beaux-Arts Classicism in America.” Within the McKim Building are exquisite murals series by John Singer Sargent, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, a peaceful inner courtyard, and additional works of famed sculptors and painters that can be viewed via the library’s daily art and architecture tours. Bates Hall, the iconic reading room located on the second floor of the McKim building, is named in honor of Joshua Bates, a London merchant banker born in Weymouth, MA, who in 1852 donated $50,000 for the library’s establishment and another $50,000 for the purchase of books. He was the first major benefactor of the BPL and initiated that its services be “free to all.”

The McKim building restoration and renovation project began in 1980 with a planning grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission that enabled the Trustees of the Boston Public Library to undertake an initial feasibility study, and Mayoral and City Council approval was received by 1983. The multiphase project began in 1991 and was completed in 2002 and included renovation of several public services spaces, mechanical, electrical, and telecommunication systems, and historic restoration work including the courtyard. (BPL History)

For much more information see the Wikipedia page on the Boston Public Library.

These two, seated allegorical female figures (two views of each) below represent Science (the first, holding a sphere) and Art (the second, holding a palette and a paintbrush) stand by the entrance to the library. The sculptures were created by Bela Lyon Pratt after his mentor Augustus Saint-Gaudens died, leaving his design for the library incomplete.



Below, a scary looking, spiked light fixture.

Six bronze doors lead from the vestibule to the spectacular lobby and grand staircase (see below. They were designed by Daniel Chester French. Each of the doors weighs 1500 pounds. This one is called “The allegories of truth and romance”.

Each door bears the low-relief image of an allegorical figure holding her attributes along with a quote. The left door quote reads: “Truth is the strength and the kingdom and the power and the majesty of all ages”, and the right: “A romance to rede and to drive the night away for me thought it better play than either at cheese or tables. (I have no idea what these means)”.


Below, Statue of Sir Henry Vane. The plaque reads:

Sir Henry Vane. Governor of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay 1636. Born 1612. Beheaded 1662. An ardent defender of civil liberty and advocate of free thought in religion. He maintained that God’s law and parliament are superior to the king. This statue was placed here at the request of James Freeman Clarke, D.D. an honored citizen of Bost who nobly labored for the abolition of slavery in America.

It appears that, after serving as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony at the age of 23 in 1636, Vane later returned to England to be tried for sedition against King Charles I and was beheaded. The royal charge was treason against the crown, but the charge was not made specific.

It seems the the library isn’t just used for reading.


I would have liked to explore the interior, but didn’t have the time.

Taken with a Sony A6000 and 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS

Some of my favorite pictures of 2022 – Black and White


Queen Anne’s Lace. 25 January.


Triple Arch Bridge, Rockefeller State Park. 17 February.


Statuette in a friend’s house. August 16th.


View from my bedroom. March 12.


Spanish American War Memorial, Yonkers, NY. March 23.


Tree across from my house. January 17.


Feeding pigeons in Washington Square Park. June 3.


Dandelion seeds. July 1,


Chrysler Building by night. September 13.


Skull light fixture. September 9.

Something of an experiment – Feet in Manhattan (first version)

I’d been walking around in Manhattan for some time and was starting to feel tired. My feet in were hurting so I sat down on a bench and as I was sitting there I noticed all the people walking by and thought it might be interesting to take some pictures of their feet – essentially anything I could get without getting up from my seat. This is the result.

Taken with a Fuji X-E3 and Fuji XF 18mm f2 R.