Digital Commonwealth

Lawrence Public Library Staff Collection

Lawrence Public Library

The Franklin Library Association was formed on March 31, 1847 with Capt. Charles H. Bigelow, the engineer, under whom the great dam was built, functioning as the library's first president. Abbott Lawrence donated $1000 to purchase books that would "tend to create mechanics, good Christians and good patriots." An additional $5000 came to the association when Mr. Lawrence died in 1855.

For many years, the Franklin Library Association was the solitary literary presence in Lawrence. The Lawrence Athenaeum would host a course of lectures for two seasons and the Lawrence Lyceum for another two or three years. Both societies would merge into the Franklin Library Association, which would present a series of twelve lectures a year for many years.

July 6, 1872, the association turned over its library and funds to the City of Lawrence. Consequently, the Free Public Library was born. At that time, the library was housed in Saunders Block and, due to its success, moved to rooms in the Odd Fellows Hall on Essex Street. Its first original building was located on the southwest corner of Hampshire and Haverhill streets at a cost of $50,000. It was opened to the public in 1892. George G. Adams, a local architect, designed the building in the Romance Revival style. In 1902, the new library was enlarged at a cost of $37,300.86. It was enlarged again in 1938. The South Lawrence branch was opened in a store near the railroad station, at 160 South Broadway, on August 1, 1898. An original building was constructed for use as a branch library and to replace the rented space on Broadway. The new library was opened for business October 10, 1927. It was located at 135 Parker St.

Parts of the main library building were condemned in 1965. A new library was built on the northeast corner of Haverhill and Lawrence streets. The three story, two-and-one-half-million-dollar building, was dedicated June 10, 1973. Both the main and branch libraries still exist and are in use (1999). The former library building became the Old Library Professional Building and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

This collection is comprised of 48 black and white photographs of the library. The photographs document the opening of the new building of the Lawrence Public Library. The photographer was Greg Heins of 8 St. May's St., Watertown, Mass. 02172.

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