– When visiting Boston you walk on the freedom trail, have lunch at Faneuil Hall, shop on Newbury Street, walk through the Boston Commons, go to the MFA, and visit the Boston Public Library.
That’s right, the Boston Public Library should be on your list of places to go to when in Boston. Why?
– For architecture lovers: Charles Follen McKim was the architect who completed the present library located on Copley Square in 1895. McKim stated the building was a “palace for the people.” The entryway is grand and envelopes the visitor with a golden light and mosaic covered walls and leads to the main staircase with two graceful lions posted halfway up, perhaps as guardians of the books.
Each room in the public library is astounding in scale and detail. McKim was of course, influenced by European architects, including Rafael Guastavino, a Spanish architect who invented the self-supporting arches using interlocking tiles and layers of mortar. This style and building technique became known as the Guastavino vaulting and in fact the Boston Public Library has seven types of Guastavino vaulting! See if you can find all seven on your next visit.
– One magnificent room is Bates Hall (the name honors the first benefactor of the library, Joshua Bates). Remember to be quiet when gawking at the beauty of the coffered ceiling, the arched windows, and the rows of books, for it is a reading room.
– And of course there is a courtyard, which is similar to a cloister with arcades on three sides. Sit on one of the small iron chairs and for a while you will feel as though you are in Europe.
– For the art lover: there are numerous rooms and paintings to take note of. The murals above the grand staircase illustrate the disciplines of philosophy, science, and poetry and muses of inspiration. The second room has one of the most elegant rooms that is appreciated by any romantic, the Abbey Room. The murals in the Abbey Room illustrate the Arthurian legend painted by the American artist Edwin Austin Abbey. The paintings are fantastically romantic renditions and set in a dark room with wood paneling, which creates just the right atmosphere.
– And finally, the best of all, the Sargent Gallery on the top floor with murals by the well-known American portrait painter John Singer Sargent. The murals depict the development of world religions and create an immensely dramatic ambiance. Figures in the murals seem larger then life and their anguish, pain, and power appear stronger than their painted flesh. My favorite murals are at the far end of the hall where cloaked figures clutch at their heads and hold onto each other for support, and one man in a white room just slightly lifts his head and looks directly at you. John Singer Sargent was truly a master of portraits. (More of his paintings can be seen at the MFA in Boston). Sargent worked on the murals for thirty years, and in fact he did not complete the final mural. The murals were restored recently in 2003-2004.
I certainly hope this tidbit of information will prompt you to visit the Boston Public Library!
You can read more about the Boston Public Library by clicking here to go to their website.
** There is also an incredibly interesting description, diagram, and more on the Sargent Gallery that explains every mural. Click here for that information.
—- If you have gotten this far and want more information, these are some things I found interesting:
– Charles Follen McKim – also designed the Pierpont Morgan Library in NYC (the original building) and Penn Station (the one that was torn down – what a tragedy!).
– The Boston Public Library has a children’s room, and at the time it was the first of it’s kind.
– The “Quest of the Holy Grail” mural in the Abbey Room is the best-known work of Edwin Austin Abbey’s.
– You can see Guastavino vaulting all over the place, and now you can impress your friends with your knowledge and correct architectural terminology.