The Morrill Memorial Library - A Finely Appointed Building for the General Culture of Norwood People
The Morrill Memorial Library building will probably be completed by September, 1897. Work on the exterior is practically finished. The building is designed for one great and worthy object – it is a noble testimonial of a father’s love. It is erected by George H. Morrill in memory of his daughter, Sarah Bond Morrill.
There is a true ring in Mr. Morrill’s words on the subject: “I did not put up this building for glory or notoriety, or for show. I built it for my baby. My daughter was a woman of fine education and literary tastes, and this is just such a building as she would have built had she lived. My daughter was an intelligent and sensible woman. There was no shoddy about her, and there will be nothing shoddy about this building. I happened to hear of this architect, Joseph L. Neal, and thought he was just the man I was looking for this building.
The appearance of the Library building is pretty well-known to Norwood people. It is located on Walpole street, at a slightly point near the junction of the thoroughfare with Washington Street. Its grounds adjoin those of the Congregational church, and are directly in front of the High School building. Located on a commanding eminence, overlooking and within easy access of the business, educational and residential centres of the town, it seems as if a better fit for a library building could hardly have been selected.
Let us glance for a few moments at the interior of the building. The building is to be wholly devoted to literary and library purposes. The first floor is to be given up a reading room and book rooms. Upstairs is a lecture hall, with a small but well appointed stage and anterooms. In the basement will be rooms for the repair of books.
The lecture hall is to be comparatively small, but admirably suited for its purpose, a place for lectures, meetings of literary clubs and literary gathering. In fact, the whole building is a miracle of good taste and good sense. It is not designed as either a museum, or art gallery, or a focus for architectural display. It is to be in all respects a library building, a building for all the people of Norwood. All temptation to make it something else has been steadily resisted by its builder. Mr. Morrill has himself looked after every detail, and his personal good taste and good sense are shown in everything. Especially is this true in the window lighting arrangements. It will not be a place of narrow, stained glass windows, and its visitors will not feel that they are walking in the dim religious light and Gothic aisles of a mausoleum. There will be plenty of windows giving plenty of light to ready by. The finishing of the building in mahogany renders strong, steady and cheerful light especially and essentially necessary.
Another matter in which Mr. Morrill takes justifiable pride is that he has greatly relieved all appearance of severity from the building’s exterior. At his especial order a granite platform or terrace has been built as an approach to the main entrance. This terrace is built in a half circle with a radius of thirty-eight fee. Two large antique brass lamp posts, with four lights each, will be placed upon this platform.
The architect of the building is Mr. Joseph L. Neal of Pittsburg, PA, a gentleman highly distinguished in his profession. The building is of handsome granite furnished by the Dodlin Granite Co, from their quarries in Norridgewock, Maine. The style is a modified Grecian, with Corinthian pillars, and the general effect is simple but imposing. A few carvings in arabesque and a few corbels are the chief distinguishing ornaments. The names of distinguished men of genius, - poets, dramatists, novelists, orators, philosophers, scientists – are cut in tablets and panels on the façade, the sides and at the rear of the building, which is a four gabled structure.
On the façade and above the entrance are the names of great American poets, Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, Poe, Whitman and Whittier. On either side the front are six panels with the individual names of English poets, - Scott, Swift, Lamb, Byron, Pope and Burns. On the east side of the building toward Washington Street, are the names of Goethe, Bacon and Victor Hugo. On the large tablet on this side of the building are the names of great dramatists, poets, novelists, essayists and philosophers, - Jonson, Marlowe, Moliere, Racine, Herrick, Corneille, Spencer, Milton, Balzac, Thackeray, Fielding, Macauley, Carlyle, Sheridan, Addison, Voltaire, Darwin, Kant and Newton.
On panels at the rear of the building are the names of Cowper, Browne, Sand, Curtis, Dumas, Dryden, Defoe and Gay. On panels at the west side of the building, toward the church, are the names of American philosophers, essayists and historians, Franklin, Emerson, Hawthorne, Prescott and Irving. All these names of men of genius cut in stone about the building are very clearly defined and easily read.
The stone work of the building is by L. D. Wilcutt and Son of Boston; the roof tiling is by Charles T. Harris, of Alfred N.Y., representing the Coladon Terra Cotta Company, Limited.
The dimensions of the main building are 40x100; the façade will be 38x43. There will be no less than seventy-five windows in the whole building. The glass for the main downstairs apartments, the reading room and libraries or stack rooms, has been made especially for this building in Munich. There will be four dormer windows in the roof and on the back of the roof there will be two large skylights of glass-tile, which will throw a soft lemon-colored light into the lecture hall. This lecture hall will be made light and cheerful enough for any day function and will be effectively lighted by chandeliers. This upstairs hall is 39x40 and is provided with a stage and to anterooms.
Downstairs are the library and reading rooms, with a stack room for books, provided with metal book stacks. Downstairs also are the librarian’s room and the catalogue room. The stack room will have a cove ceiling with tinted walls and plaster cornice. The reading rooms, vestibule and stack and library rooms will have a wood cornice with dental courses. The entire building above the basement is to finished in Tabasco mahogany, the floors are to be quartered oak.
In the reading room will be a 24-light chandelier; in the main hall a 16-light chandelier; in the librarian’s room an 8-light chandelier; in the catalogue room a chandelier of 6 lights; and a 6-light chandelier will be place in the vestibule. The stack room will have two chandeliers – one of 16 lights, the other 12. The building will be wired to light automatically, and will probably be light by gas at first.
The fireplaces in the several rooms will have antique copper facings, with solid mahogany mantels. In the reading room and in various other rooms there will be a good deal of appropriate ornamentation and much relief carving in wood. In the reading room on a frieze will be the names of Shakespeare, Byron and other great authors. These names will be cut in B Shape.
The book-lift from the stack room will connect with the repair room in the basement. The basement will be provided with two lavatories, one for either sex.
The reading room and vestibule will be made especially beautiful and attractive. The vestibule will be finished in Numidian marble, with floors of marble mosaic. The front of the building will be provided with tiles of vitrified glass.
In the reading room will be the memorial marble tablet, bearing these words: “This building was presented to the town of Norwood in Memory of Sarah Bond Morrill, A.D. MDCCCXCVI.”
The contractors for the building are J. H. Burt and Co., of Mattapan, the foreman is J. S. Sanborn of Readville. The plumbing is by E. J. Winn of Dedham; the steam fitting by Walker and Pratt of Boston.
The work of grading and planting the lawns will be done by John Carberry. The glass in the building, aside from that furnished abroad, is by Reading and Beard, Boston. The antique lamp posts for the front terrace will be furnished by McKenney and Waterbury, of Boston. The entire cost of the building is not yet known. It will doubtless considerably exceed $75,000.