History of the Charlestown Branch Library
In 1820, the Charlestown Union Library was founded using space in the Town House, and later in the Swan-Hurd House at Main and Henley Streets. The City of Charlestown voted in 1860 to establish the Charlestown Public Library. The first library assistants, Miss Jane Edwards and Miss Helen Wise, established a card catalog system to ready the first 1200 books for circulation.
The library moved in 1862 to the third floor of the Warren Institute for Savings, a building newly completed in 1860. At the time, it boasted a catalog of 6000 volumes. That location served until 1869, when the library moved to the new City Hall building in City Square, where it remained until 1913.
Charlestown was annexed to the City of Boston in 1874, at which time the Charlestown Public Library became a branch of the Boston Public Library.
In 1913, the library moved to a newly-built structure of its own, at the corner of Monument Square and Monument Avenue. The facade of that building, now the home of the Charlestown Historical Society’s Bunker Hill Museum, still bears the inscription, “Free For All” and “Charlestown Branch.”
The Charlestown Friends Group was begun by Librarian Mary F. Harris in 1953. It became the second friends group in Boston, the first being established at the Jamaica Plains Branch Library.
By 1965, urban renewal had come to Boston bringing with it considerable demolition and redevelopment. In 1970, the library moved to its present location at the corner of Main and Green Streets, on what had been the site of the Harvard Unitarian Church, built in 1817. The building was designed by Eduardo Catalano and boasts 10,300 square feet, and a small, welcoming outdoor space.
The library is an exercise in concrete (rare for Charlestown) and glass, producing extremely pleasant and functional indoor spaces. The glass was intended to define an articulated interval between the base structure and an inverted “channel” roof. Much of it has been replaced with plywood. Long-time residents of Charlestown cannot remember when the combination of a normal, healthy city youngster and an accommodating brickbat did not spell trouble for undefended surfaces of glass.
Boston Society of Architects Architecture Boston, 1976
Improvements completed in 2012 include the installation of a new HVAC system, new roof, flooring, paint and installation of energy‐efficient windows.