Meekins Library, 1900-1910, and Stephen Meekins' gravestone
- Meekins Library, 1900-1910, and Stephen Meekins' gravestone
This photograph shows the Meekins Library a few years after it opened in 1897, and an inset in the upper left corner shows the monument of library donor Stephen Meekins 1/3 mile away in the Village Hill Cemetery. The library building and the start of its collection were funded by a bequest of more than $30,000 left by widowed and childless Williamsburg farmer Stephen Meekins (1812-1894). The bequest astonished his fellow townspeople because Meekins had never been known to give anything away during his lifetime, least of all money. Under the terms of the bequest, though open to the public, the library was not owned by the town, but was governed by a board of three trustees. The building was designed by Putnam & Bayley Architects of Northampton, Mass., and constructed of grey granite from Monson, Mass. and a pale sandstone from Ohio. Each window has an upper panel of stained glass. Around the frieze at the top of the walls are inscribed the names of authors and others who were renowned at the time (some but not all still are). Two mottoes also appear there: 'Wise Men Lay Up Knowledge' and 'Knowledge is Power.' The doorway is flanked by two columns of polished Aberdeen red granite. The building was dedicated in February 1897. In the foreground of the photograph is the old iron bridge carrying Main Street over the West Branch of the Mill River, which is contained on both sides by high walls in this vicinity. Beyond the library at left is seen the so-called Porter house, which stood beside the library until 1926, when the widening of Williams Street (now Route 9) necessitated moving it to a new location in back of the library. Most of its former site became part of the present library lawn, and when the library was expanded in 2003, the Porter house was purchased and demolished to make room for a major library addition, gardens and parking area. Also in preparation for the expansion, the library's corporate trustees turned it over to the town and it became publicly owned. Regarding Meekins' gravestone, the 1946 'A History of Williamsburg in Massachusetts' compiled by Phyllis Baker Deming had this to say: 'His monument, in Village Hill Cemetery, looks impressive indeed, and this is as he wished it. He believed that when people saw the library, they would travel immediately to the burying ground to see the resting place of its donor. He wanted that memorial to be the largest in the cemetery. Posterity has considered the library itself a better memorial, and whether anyone, after seeing it, has travelled immediately to Village Hill to see the Meekins Monument, is doubtful.' Whoever created this photographic montage may have thought the monument would be more appreciated if visitors didn't have to walk up to the cemetery to see it.
- Name on Item:
- Meekins Library
- Collection (local):
Meekins Library, Williamsburg, Mass., Local History, Historic Photographs Collection
Meekins, Stephen, 1812-1894
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Part of the Meekins Library, Williamsburg, Mass., Local History, Historic Photographs Collection. http://www.meekins-library.org/
Meekins Library - Local History - Historic Photographs Collection - Meekins Library, 1900-1910