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Scoville Memorial Library

Salisbury Town, Litchfield County, CT

The Scoville Memorial Library is located at 38 Main Street, Salisbury CT 06068; phone: 860-435-2838.

The Scoville Memorial Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

Main Street in Salisbury, a northwestern Connecticut town of 3,600 that was incorporated in 1741, is a wide north-south thoroughfare lined with gracious shade trees. One of the amply-spaced buildings along the street, at the southeast corner of Library Street, is the Scoville Memorial Library, designed in 1894 by Stone, Carpenter and Willson of Providence, Rhode Island. The library's well-maintained three-acre site slopes off to the south and west toward Wachocastinook Creek, known locally as Library Brook, that runs across the southern part of the plot.

The library building is a 35 by 129-foot rectangular structure of grey, rough-faced, random ashlar limestone, quarried locally, consisting of two asymmetric, gable-roofed wings disposed on either side of a central 55-foot tall, square battlemented clock tower. There is a 25 by 26-foot wing to the rear that houses the library stacks. The broad roofs are covered with slate. The round-arched entrance, right of the tower, is approached by six stone steps and is surmounted by a stepped gable with a stone plaque affixed to the gable end in which is incised the library's name and the year date MDCCCXCIV. A second, flat-pointed gable breaks the overhanging slightly flared, eaves further to the south. This gable has a large window with segmental arch that is tripartite both horizontally and vertically. Vertically oblong windows with deep reveals alternate with the gables to complete the fenestration of this wing.

The tower has apertures at four levels. At the top on each surface, small, square openings flank the clock face over a group of three tall round-arched windows that have open louvers to permit passage of the sound of the bells. Two larger, round-arched windows are at the level of the entrance plaque, and two segmentally-arched windows are at first floor level. The upper halves of these four windows are glazed with diagonal muntins.

The Scoville Memorial Library possesses high artistic value because of its well conceived Romanesque Revival design and the high quality of its masonry. Three disparate influences that had developed over a period of years came together in a timely fashion to form the Scoville Memorial Library. The first of these was the town's library tradition, going back to 1771, which was reinvigorated in the 1880's by the formation of a Library Association, A library building was needed. This need was duly noted by Jonathan Scoville, a native son, who over his lifetime amassed a substantial fortune and who provided by his will for construction of the building after his death in 1890. With the need established and the money in hand, the architect, Edmund R. Willson became the third essential ingredient in the creation of the Scoville Memorial Library by providing an outstanding design in the Romanesque Revival style toward the end of the period of popularity of that style as it had been developed by Richardson and others in prior decades. The plan, massing, and style of the Scoville Memorial Library have a strong similarity to the earlier Massachusetts libraries of H. H. Richardson, a leading American architect. The Winn Memorial Library at Woburn, 1877, Richardson's first, had all the elements of central tower with entrance to the right, wings to left and right, gable roof, and small projection to the rear found at Salisbury. The Ames Memorial Library at North Easton, designed by Richardson later the same year, has a round-headed entrance far more prominent than that at Salisbury and embellished with an ornamental design of the type further developed and used repeatedly by Louis Sullivan, as at his Auditorium building in Chicago, 1889. Richardson's Crane Memorial Library, Quincy, 1660, on the right of a wide, heavy arched opening, has a multi-sectioned window quite similar to that on the right of the round-headed entrance of Scoville Memorial Library. Richardson's first sketch for the Burlington, Vermont library, 1883, had an apsidal end for the wing on the right of the entrance. Hartford's George Keller in his Ansonia, Connecticut library, 1891, combined a round-arched entrance with a square clock tower and two gable-roofed wings, although the wings were at right angles to one another. Stone, Carpenter and Willson designed for Salisbury a library building quite similar to those already existing elsewhere, but with an important difference. While all the earlier libraries in this mode had used a combination of earth hues in brownstone, buff colored stone, and terra cotta, Salisbury is executed in a chaste, grey monochrome. Where Richardson used polychromy, as in alternating colors for arch voussoirs, Salisbury is grey. Where Keller used red sandstone for a water table, Salisbury is grey. The earth tones and the robust polychrome of the predecessor buildings have given way in Salisbury to a chaste monochrome. The quarry faced masonry is physically the same, the ashlar equally well done, the molded water table, large voussoirs, and massive lintels and sills are all present, but made less vigorous by their monochrome color.

  1. David F. Ransom, architectural historian, Scoville Memorial Library, Salisbury CT, nomination document, 1979, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Main Street