Whitinsville Social Library Historical Room
Open 2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month from 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Open 3rd Saturday of the month from 10 am - noon.
WHITINSVILLE SOCIAL LIBRARY BUILDING
CELEBRATES ITS 100th YEAR
Amid the ornate carvings and the glow of seldom used chandeliers, attendees at a recent Saturday night party marked the one hundredth anniversary of the completion and dedication of the Whitinsville Social Library on Church Street. The National Register building of Milford granite constructed in the Georgian Revival style was designed by noted Boston architect, R. Clipston Sturgis.
The Whitinsville Social Library is the sole public library for the town of Northbridge, MA. It is administered by the Whitinsville Social Library Corporation and is funded by the Corporation and the town of Northbridge. "Social" in the Library name indicates it was originally a subscription library and only four libraries in the United States still retain the word social in their name.
Today's Whitinsville Social Library has its roots in a meeting held in December of 1844 to discuss a $100 legacy left by Miss Sarah Whitin "to take into consideration the establishment of a Social Library." For many years the Library was kept in the chapel of the Village Congregational Society. In 1860, a legacy of $500 was received from Ezra W. Fletcher. In 1876 the Library relocated to the new Town Hall, received $300 from the town, and opened as a free public library.
In 1913, the present building on Church Street was constructed through the efforts of Edward and Arthur Fletcher Whitin. Upon his death, Arthur Fletcher Whitin donated $20,000 to the Library. It was sold to the town of Northbridge for $1.00 in 1917 on condition that the town would maintain and properly care for it.
During the 20th century, the library grew apace of the town. In 2010, the library joined CWMARS (the Central/Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing) consortium as a full member and began sharing holdings within the regional online catalog. CWMARS provides the library catalog, database access, downloadable e-books, videos, and audio books, and provides for public Internet access. The Library has in excess of 46,000 print materials.
The Church Street building remains essentially unchanged except for a small addition for accessibility in the 1990s and the opening of the book stacks to the public. When the building first opened the stacks with marble floors were closed. Patrons could request two books at a time and the librarian would get them from the shelves. Original furnishings and five working fireplaces still remain today. The Library's carvings were done by Joseph Hetherington Sr., a 1910 immigrant from England, who also provided his talents to the Hill Street mansions. The interior woodwork is of California redwood. The screens have pears, apples and grapes on one side and literary quotations on the other. Stocked with emergency supplies, the underground basement served as the town's fallout shelter during the Cold War.
The architect, R. Clipston Sturgis, served at various times as President of the Boston Institute of Architects and the American Institute of Architects (1913-1915). In addition to the Whitinsville Social Library, other works of Sturgis include: Church of the Advent, Beacon Hill, Boston, Perkins School for the Blind Campus, Watertown, Old Federal Reserve Bank (now a luxury hotel), Boston, and the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute seal. The Library seal carved over the front entrance was also designed by Mr. Sturgis. Translated by an English herald, the seal might read as follows: “The seal of the Library, given by the Whitin brothers, which stands near the Blackstone River.”
What follows is the text of a 1913 article in American Architect magazine, published just prior to the opening of the building:
"This is a small library in a small town, to be taken care of most of the time by a single attendant. The reading rooms and delivery room have therefore been designed for inspection from a single point. By making the whole front of the building a single room it was possible to get a room which has the dignity of considerable size, and by the use of the open decorative screens the two ends of the room are given a sense of seclusion from the central delivery space, and yet are entirely open for inspection by the attendant at the delivery desk itself. There is no second floor except over the two small portions at the rear of the front room and to the right and left of the stack, in which the stories are low and there is a second story of study rooms. There is a second story level of stack in the basement, the upper level being that on the level of the first floor. The outside of the building is a local granite, the finish of the reading room is entirely of California redwood. The stack is cast iron and the uprights of the stack are utilized as supports for the concrete slab which forms the roof."
In 1944, upon the 100th anniversary of the founding of the library, the following was written by Josephine C. Balmer:
“Miss Sarah Fletcher’s vision of a library for her village could have borne no possible resemblance to the century-plant that has sprung from the seed of her legacy. That it has had such a beautiful flowering is due to the thoughtful and loving care of many individuals, serving the common good with no thought of self-interest, but with wholehearted devotion. May the ideals they worthily strove to maintain be a continued inspiration to one generation and another, that they may be transmuted into worthy service for community, and be perpetuated in the hearts and lives of its citizens – Forever!”
Those words ring ever fitting and true today.
The mission of the Whitinsville Social Library is to serve the entire Northbridge community as a welcoming place that
enlightens, informs, and entertains, and to connect people to a variety of library materials, resources and experiences that support lifelong learning and literacy.
That mission embodies the vision of the Library’s founders. Today the jewel shines brightly on this historic New England town.
link to Whitinsville Social Library
Whitinsville Social Library Historical Room Open:
2nd & 4th Wednesdays of the month from 1:30-2:30
3rd Saturday of the month from 10 am - 12 pm.