The charming public library building in Jamaica Plain was built in 1909 to serve the local community. Situated next to a much larger municipal building and oriented towards a side street, this neighborhood gem needed some serious polish to stay relevant. It was even unclear to visitors where to enter the building. A 1980s renovation created a new accessible entrance yet raised security issues and only exacerbated the library’s identity crisis. This project sought to once and for all remedy these problems, creating a bold entrance facing the public square while gracefully navigating a tiny area available between the lofty municipal building and the dainty library. The new entrance is prominent and modern while tying into the historic architecture by playfully incorporating the coloration of the masonry buildings into the carefully calculated shading pattern in the frit of the glass.
The new addition reinstated a prominent entry sequence to the library, but the rest of the building needed a major update as well and this was completed with the utmost sympathy to its history. The renovated interior preserves its original features, such as fireplaces, wooden trim and bookcases, and large windows. The designers even created a custom wallpaper for the children’s room with a subtle print of silhouettes of characters by local authors. There is a new space for teens in an area converted from underutilized space in the balcony and a sweet, little new patio for outdoor reading and relaxation. The library now better serves the community while bringing its historic character and charm to both new young readers and former children’s section visitors.
“Public buildings play a critical role in neighborhood success, and this is nowhere more apparent than in a library. But transforming a small, historic library into a vibrant central node for community faces many challenges. Here a tiny lot for expansion, a charming (aka small) building, and a more dominant, historic community treasure adjacent required threading a lot of needles. Layer on today’s program needs and success is miraculous. Here in JP the historic train-station-like 1909 library has been sensitively rehabilitated and joined with a sympathetic, modern new partner, a duo that will serve the city well for future generations,” says Greg Galer, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance.
City of Boston, Public Facilities Department
Andelman and Lelek Engineering
Anton Grassl Photography
Boston Public Library
Building Conservation Associates
Friends of the Jamaica Plain Branch Library
Richard Burck Associates
VJ Associates of New England
In the News
As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.