West Branch, Somerville MA

Back in May (this post is just a little delayed) I visited a library in Somerville, MA. I had walked by the building on the way to work for several years but never entered. By coincidence my visit was on the 101st anniversary of the dedication.

Somerville West Branch Library facade

Residents of West Somerville accounted for 70% of library business back in the 1860's. They relied on mini branches located in shops in Davis Square. John F. Foster took up the cause for a permanent building and approached representatives of Andrew Carnegie for a funding grant. In the latter part of his life, Carnegie donated over $56 million to fund 2,509 libraries.

Somerville West Branch Library interior

The building was designed in the Classical Revival style, featuring Greek columns and symmetrical open rooms. The interior has wonderful details including a chandelier in the entrance.

Somerville West Branch Library chandelier
Somerville West Branch Library ceiling decoration

Some of the details have been lost. The walls and ceiling were once painted with decorations, some little of which has been uncovered. The second floor auditorium had the worst of it, losing not only the skylight which was filled in, but receiving carpeting on the floors and wood paneling on the walls. The 70's were truly a decorative nightmare.

Somerville West Branch Library auditorium

The childrens room in the basement needs a little help as well. Hopefully no one will paint over the murals.

Somerville West Branch Library camelot
Somerville West Branch Library merlin

I couldn't take pictures of the whole childrens room because at the time it was being used. There were three tables set up with a half dozen people per group. The people were of many different nationalities and backgrounds and were there to practice speaking english and prepare for their citizenship test.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love libraries because they are not just about bound paper books? If you'd like to see more pictures of the West Branch library, click here to view the photo gallery.

Sources: "West Branch Library Historic Structure Report", Somerville MA 1999.