I love libraries. I loved going to the library as a child and continue to visit and support them today. They exude a sense of peace and tranquility while offering the gift of unending resources and knowledge.
New England seems to have a library in every town, large or small. Vermont has 183 public libraries, pretty much one for every town in the state. The buildings come in all sizes from tiny single room buildings to grandiose marble and granite structures. I feel as though I’ve seen all the different permutations of libraries, but this past weekend I saw a library in New Hampshire that surprised even me.
The Free Richards Library in Newport NH was having their annual book sale (the 60th no less) as part of the town wide Apple Pie Craft Fair. Who could resist apple pie and a book sale? So my husband Brent and I piled our two Golden Retrievers into the car and headed out to see what we might find.
When we parked and walked towards the library I was amazed. This wasn’t the typical library building, but a mansion made of beautiful wood and set right on Main Street across from the Green. It stood three stories tall with wide porches, large windows and even a new addition in the back. The inside was even more amazing with intricate woodwork, a cantilevered staircase, graceful columns, and a fireplace surround. The rooms had been divided into areas for children’s, teen, and adult books. The adult reading room was wood paneled and had it’s own fireplace.
I had to hear the story behind this unusual library and soon found the information table with very helpful volunteers. It turns out that the building served as the elegant home of Seth M. Richards, son and partner with his father of the local mill. Lumber was big business back in the late 1800s and the home cost $65,000 back in the day (over 2 million in today’s dollars). The Richards had actually built a library for the town, but by 1963 it was slated to be demolished. That’s when Louise Richards Rollins, the daughter of Seth Richards, gave the home to the Trustees of the Richards Free Library. She continued to live there in an upstairs apartment until her death in 1968. Since then, there have been many renovations while still maintaining the elegance and charm of the original house.
What a great testament to the generosity of the Richards family and the ongoing support and work of the citizens of Newport! They have a fabulous library, a great annual book sale, and delicious apple pie to boot! Definitely worth a weekend road trip!
Terry (Red Barn Vermont)