Bridgewater Memorial Library

25 South St

1881

Architectural Style

Romanesque Revival

Significance

Architecture, Community Planning, Education

Use Type

Library, Other Governmental or Civic

Neighborhood

Bridgewater Town Center

Massachusetts Historical Commission Report

Architectural Significance

The Bridgewater Memorial Library is the town's most architecturally sophisticated 19th century public building. It is one of the very few 19th century structures in "the Center" constructed of brick. Stylistically it incorporates elements of Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque. This well-preserved building is of a T-shaped plan. It is constructed of red pressed brick with free stone trimmings and terra cotta ornamentation. It rises one story to a hip roof. The roofs ridges are accented with "sawtooth" copper cresting and several ornate finials. Projecting from the center of the tripartite main facade is a pavilion with a recessed entrance and gable roof. The multi panel entrance doors are recessed behind a wide round arch which exhibits a turned lattice work transom. The gable contains raised terra cotta lettering which reads "A Memorial" and "1881" as well as a terra cotta laurel wreath. The entrance doors are flanked by tablets of Tennessee Marble bearing the names of 36 deceased soldiers. This building's interior contains handsome wood panelling, wainscoting, carved fireplace mantles, etc. The new Bridgewater Public Library at 15 South St. opened in 1972.

Historical Significance

Civil War memorials, during the 1870s and 1880s, were erected throughout New England on village greens and in parks. Generally these memorials took the form of statuary, obelisks, markers, etc. Bridgewater's war memorial benefitted the living, while honoring its fallen soldiers. On May 30, 1878, the town's Decoration Day Committee adopted a resolution in favor of a Memorial Library's construction. Construction was begun in June 1881, and the building was dedicated May 30, 1883. Built at a cost of $14,481.19, the town appropriated $9,015.15 while public spirited citizens raised the remaining expenses. By 1884 this 3-room structure (including book room, reading room, and museum) contained 5,200 books. This library was designed by a leading late 19th century Boston architectural firm, Rotch and Tilden. Arthur Rotch (1850-1894) and George Thomas Tilden (1845-1919) were in partnership from 1880-1894. Both architects studied at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris. Important works by this firm include the Ringe Manual Training School, Cambridge, Ma.; the Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, and the Art Museum at Wellesley College.