Essential Architecture- New England

Crane Library


Henry Hobson Richardson , FAIA


Quincy, MA




Richardsonian Romanesque




  The original building (1882), front view, architect H. H. Richardson.
  Side view, showing 1908 extension to the rear.
  Interior view of original building, with fireplace and "Angel at the Tomb".
  Interior with original details by Richardson.
  Interior view of 1908 addition by Aiken.

The Thomas Crane Public Library, in Quincy, Massachusetts, is a city library with remarkably fine architecture. It was funded by the Crane family as a memorial to Thomas Crane, a wealthy stone contractor who got his start in the Quincy quarries. The library has the largest public collection in Eastern Massachusetts with the only exception being Boston Public Library. Also, the library hosts many community programs, performances, and lectures as well as housing Quincy's local cable access channel, QATV.

The Thomas Crane Public Library was built in four stages: the original building (1882) by architect H. H. Richardson; an additional ell with stack space and stained glass (1908) by William M. Aiken in Richardson's style; a major expansion (1939) by architects Paul and Carol Coletti, with stone carvings by sculptor Joseph A. Coletti of Quincy; and a recent addition (2001) by Boston architects Childs, Bertman, and Tseckares, which doubled the size of the library. H. H. Richardson considered this library among his most successful civic buildings, and Harper's Weekly called it "the best village library in the United States".

In addition to its fine architecture, the original building contains an excellent 30 x 10 inch stained glass window by noted American artist John LaFarge in memory of Thomas Crane, entitled the Old Philosopher. To the left of the elaborate carved fireplace is a second LaFarge window, "Angel at the Tomb", given in memory of Crane's son Benjamin Franklin Crane. The library's grounds were designed by leading landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted.