Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Part I, Tour of Boston Public Library

I recently participated in a tour of the McKim building in the central branch of The Boston Public Library. The Boston Public Library Central Library is located in Copley Square, a major hub of activity in the city of Boston. Established in 1848, it was designed to be a free library for the people, which was unheard of at the time. It was the first publicly supported municipal library in America, the first to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children’s room.

There are two buildings in the central library, the McKim and the Johnson buildings. Designed by McKim, Mead, and White, the oldest building known as the McKim building, is a huge mass of granite and marble with carvings and embellishments on the exterior and interior spaces that make it a work of art unparalleled today. McKim hired mostly American artists to create murals and sculptures that decorate the many rooms and lobby areas of the library, and the entrances. Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, graces the central keystone over the main entrance directly over the seals of the Commonwealth of Mass, the Library, and the City of Boston. The fa├žade is decorated with the names of the great masters of art, science, religion, and statesmanship, and two large statues that represent Art and Science flank the steps leading to the entrance.

The Johnson building is the modern part of the central library and is only briefly described in the tour. Its architecture is not as impressive as the McKim building, though it does have modern amenities.

My next post will describe the interior architecture of the McKim building, which is very impressive.

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