Library Visit: Public Library of New London, New London, CT

Public Library of New London
63 Huntington Street
New London, Connecticut 06320

Public Library of New London–original structure and addition.

Opened: July 1891
Architect: Henry Hobson Richardson/Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge
Style: Romanesque
Materials: pink granite from Worcester with Kibbe sandstone trimming (both harvested in MA)
Original building: 4,000 sq feet
Cost: $65,000 seed money donated by Henry Philemon Haven
Addition: 1974 added 15,000 sq feet

We were in New London, CT the weekend before winter storm Nemo hit and conditions were rather warm and definitely dry. As you can see from the pictures below the Public Library of New London is a stunner. Although my visit was brief due to having a plane to catch, I was fortunate to get a spontaneous tour from librarian Ellen Paul, head of reference, who noticed me taking pictures. As we walked through the building she told me about the history of the library from its founding to the more recent renovations.

The original building.
Beautiful arches make you feel like you’re headed into something important, which you are!
The original front entrance is under the arches. Can you see the sliver of the door to the left?
Bronze relief of library founder Henry Haven by Augustus St. Gaudens.
The original front door is no longer in use.
This plaque is on the corner of the building on the State Street side and reads: “The Public Library of New London . . . was the gift to his city from Henry Philemon Haven, one of New London’s most prosperous whaling merchants. Construction was completed and the building opened to the public in 1892. The well-known architect Henry Hobson Richardson is credited with the spirit of the style of the building although actual construction was supervised by his successors Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge of Boston. (Construction of the addition to the south began in 1975 and was made possible through funds donated by the city, state, foundations, and public subscription.)”


The original plaque is on the State Street side of the building, near the arches.
The view from the library looking down State Street. The parking lot is behind the library, which is just to the right of this pedestrian.
Details make the building–the beautiful rain gutter, stone carvings, contrasting stone colors, and red paint trim all contribute to the charm and historic importance of this building.
The front entrance is part of the new addition.
Lovely sculpture celebrating New London’s past and future. Unfortunately, I didn’t stop to catch the artist’s name.
The back entrance. We parked in back and walked in here.
When facing the back entrance this is what you see to your left, the new addition.
When facing the back entrance this is what you see to your right, the original building.
They ain’t lyin’, this lot is monitored. When you walk in the back entrance there’s a sign-in sheet to list your car’s make, model, and license plate number. The library is located in the historic and busy downtown area of New London and I imagine they have to protect parking for patrons on weekends and during tourist season.
This open staircase greets you as you walk in the back door. The landing where the light is streaming in is where you’d enter the library through the front door.
Payphone next to the front door along with used books for sale to benefit the library. I can’t recall the last library I saw that still had a pay phone for their patrons, but just about every library has used books for sale.
The checkout/circulation desk faces the front door.
When facing the checkout desk, the adult section is to your right.
I’m no fan of 1970’s architecture (is anyone?), but I was thrilled to walk into the adult section and see these double-decker alcoved stacks that harken back to some of the earliest library designs. This is by far the best 70s era addition that I’ve seen!
A picture from the top floor of the double-stacks looking at the information/reference desk. The light streaming through the windows that line the back side of the new addition and the plants give the room a pleasant warmth.


Behind these two computers facing out is a double row of computers stations for patrons…all of which were in use. It was a busy Saturday morning.
A view on to Huntington Street from one of the alcoves.
As always, I visited Cather on the shelf.
What’s a library without a globe? Globes and libraries go way back together.
Now, picture yourself standing again facing the checkout desk. The children’s section is to your left and in the original part of the library.
Window detail.
Reading room. Note the chandelier in the next room.
Beautiful oak paneling.


Archway detail.


More gorgeous oak paneling in the next room. That window looks out onto Huntington Street through the arches.


Window detail.
This stone fireplace dominates the room.


Plaque detail: The gentleman pictured is Henry Richardson Bond, a prominent CT banker in the 19th century. The small placard underneath reads, “The Bodenwein Public Benevolent Foundation, Children’s Storytelling Room.”


Detail of image on the fireplace.


A photo of the room with the fireplace from the late 19th century. The chandelier that now hangs in that room is a replica of the one pictured here.
A parting glance up at the library’s facade.


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