I am so lucky to be the Director of a historic public library and research archive — the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, Massachusetts, located on Cape Cod. Our library is notable for being the oldest building housing a library in the United States — it was built in 1644 as a meetinghouse and home for Reverend John Lothrop, founder of the town, and was passed down through his family members until the early 1800s. In the 1860s, thanks to the generosity of retired sea captain (and Lothrop descendant) William Sturgis, it was converted to a public library and this year we celebrated 150 years of service to our community.
Our building has seen numerous changes — it started life as a “half-Cape” and is now a Federal-style building with 20th and 21st century additions. But the original building still retains much of its old charm, and all of its amazing history. It is not glamorous — there is old wood and peeling paint in places — but when people visit they sense the long history of the building and the simplicity of its more modern spaces.
I have taken many photographs in and around Sturgis Library over my nearly 15 year tenure, but a few days ago I was struck by what was underfoot. The floorboards, the rugs, and other things that most people may not notice as they work and visit there each day. So I did a little “from where I stand” series to show you where I work (and spend most of my waking hours.)
Let’s start in the attic. The floorboards have been repaired with lead patches, I believe, and I’m not sure why. I will have to do a little research on this, librarian that I am.
We had an architectural and archaeological study done on the building a few years ago. Up in the rafters they found old hoop skirt forms. How amazing is that? I wish I had my dancing shoes on!
Down the attic steps we go.
The second floor of the old part of the library was converted into an apartment for the librarians to live in when the building opened in 1867. Then it was rented out to tenants until the last tenant died in 1990s. Yes, you heard right. The 1990s. The second floor is now home to a staff sitting area (thank goodness for yard sale furniture), an old kitchen, and staff offices. It’s a little funky but we love it. Here are shots of a rug and the kitchen floor — probably from the 1920s or 30s. We keep meaning to replace them but they have their “Olde Cape Cod” charms.
Next we go down another flight to the original building. Here are floors from the 1600s.
And this little threshold guy, who smiles up at me happily every day.
Ahem! Time to get new shoes!
Anyway, our children’s room is filled with fun along with books.
And outside, history persists. 18th century hitching posts, stone walls, and a vintage folk art sign.
Bye! Until next time.