H.H. Richardson, 1885
Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, 1898
Newhall and Blevins, 1916
Stahl Associates, 1996
National Historic Landmark
National Register of Historic Places
This was the last of H.H. Richardson’s major public libraries around Boston (following Woburn and Quincy). It reflects his familiar asymmetric massing, with the reading room and stacks in one wing and public rooms in another, linked by a stair tower. In contrast to his Woburn Public Library built 8 years prior, the Converse Library is restrained. Rich detail is still included, but more subtly in monochromatic brownstone. The courtyard originally held gardens designed by F. L. Olmsted. Furniture of HHR's design was provided by the Davenport company (see A.H. Davenport House, next door).
A 1990's addition by Stahl Associates, a firm noted for their artful preservation work, added space for modern library functions, and moved the primary entrance to the side street. Earlier additions were integrated into the overall design to house administration and stacks, preserving the original building for gallery use and special collections. The new building responds to Richardson's original massing, roofscape, color, texture, scale and fenestration to arrive at a harmonious, integrated composition.
Sources: Adams & Smith Architects; "Buildings of Massachusetts," Morgan et al, 2009; Wikipedia.