The City Library: The Gift Of Learning by C. N. O'Neil and John A. Brisbin
The Manchester City Library has been a cultural treasure to Manchester and New Hampshire since 1854. In his inaugural address that year, Mayor elect Frederick Smyth proposed the establishment of a free public library for all of Manchester's citizens. During the previous decade, the Manchester Athenaeum had been used and enjoyed by its members. The Manchester Athenaeum collection was officially transferred to the city on September 6, 1854, bringing to life Mayor Smyth's dream of a Manchester City Library.
The new city library soon outgrew its original site in the Patten Block on Elm Street next to City Hall. In 1871, the City erected a new building for it on Franklin Street, on a lot given by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company. In spite of an addition built several years later, the library's expanding collections and enthusiastic user group soon outgrew that Franklin Street location as well. For one thing, that building had no separate children's room. Indeed, prior to 1907 children weren't even allowed in the library.
Soon after the death of his wife Elenora Blood Carpenter in January, 1910, the president of Amoskeag Paper Mill Frank Pierce Carpenter offered to construct a library building in her memory.
Frank Carpenter spared no expense in the planning and construction of the new library building. He hired architects Edward L. Tilton of New York and Edgar A.P. Newcomb of Honolulu to design the Italian Renaissance style building which would serve not only the then present needs but growth over many subsequent decades.
He purchased a prime development property on Pine Street, between Concord and Amherst Streets, directly across from what is now Victory Park. In the actual construction, he used Concord granite, Botticino and Lastavena marble. The structure which still houses the library today was dedicated, before an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 people, as the Elenora Blood Carpenter Building on November 18, 1914.
During World War II, under the direction of Librarian Caroline B. Clement, Manchester City Library participated in community efforts such as closing early due to rationing of oil. The wartime library also helped circulate Civil Defense publications and posted information about the sale of War Bonds. A "victory book campaign" for the men in the armed forces was started and Manchester citizens responded with donations. In 1942, a readers' advisory service was introduced to advise patrons on the best books in specific subject areas. Job information, literacy information, foreign language materials and VHS video collections have become part of the readers service area in recent years.
The New Hampshire Room of Manchester City Library, a reference library of local history and genealogy information, was formally dedicated on March 16, 1958. Included in the New Hampshire Room collection are biographies, literature, military records and other information about Manchester and New Hampshire. The collection now includes microfilm of the library's newspaper scrapbooks from 1845-1941, Manchester city directories, and the U.S. Federal Census for New Hampshire.
During the summer of 1995, the New Hampshire Room was moved to the largest second floor room in the Carpenter Memorial Building. This relocation and renovation project was completed with a bequest from the late Priscilla Sullivan, a Carpenter family relation.
In the key-block over the library's entrance, the imposing sculpture of an owl symbolizes learning. As the majestic doors are entered and the state's largest collection, 350,000 volumes, comes into view, the unlimited potential for Manchester's success and enrichment becomes apparent.
Mrs. Elenora Blood Carpenter was the daughter of the Honorable Aretas Blood, who made his fortune building locomotives and steam fire engines, Throughout her life, she was involved in the Franklin Street Church, the Women's Aid and Relief Society and other charitable organizations in and around Manchester. She and her husband had a wide range of philanthropic interests. Carpenter funds built the Manchester Historical Association building on Concord Street, assisted with the construction of the former Amherst Street Post Office building (now the law offices of Devine, Millimet and Branch) and paid off the mortgage of the Manchester Y.W.C.A. building on Concord Street. The Carpenter home on North Elm Street was bequeathed to the local Red Cross which still has its offices there.
C. N. O'Neil is librarian of the New Hampshire Room, Manchester City Library.
John A. Brisbin was formerly the Director of the Library.