The Bigelow Free Public Library is named in honor of Erastus Brigham Bigelow, its greatest benefactor. The existing library grew out of what was once the Bigelow Mechanics Institute, founded in 1846 as a subscription library. In 1873, after the Institute was dissolved, the Library Association was formed. Following a long decrease in growth, the Association donated their worth to the Town of Clinton in order to form the Bigelow Free Public Library. Its collection was housed, at various times, in both private homes and municipal buildings.
The present site, at the corner of Walnut and Church Streets, became available when the land was donated to the town. The home of Dr. Samuel Morse, the town’s first physician, was auctioned off, piece by piece. Once the land was vacant, the site was ready for construction of the Bigelow Free Public Library. The Library was opened in 1902 through the generosity of the Andrew Carnegie Foundation and George Weeks, a local citizen.
Original Carnegie Library
The building and its architecture are an example of an original Carnegie style library, built in the Greek Revival style of architecture. One of the most notable features is the arched ceiling on the main floor, built by the Guastavino method, which eliminated the need for steel and instead substituted genuine masonry. The staircase is constructed using the same method. Another interesting feature on the main floor is the frieze, a reproduction of that of the west front of the Parthenon, which was a gift from Henry F. Bigelow. The building possesses an architecturally rare three story book stack area that has glass floors. It is a truly unique feature among libraries in Central Massachusetts.
The library building has remained basically unchanged since its dedication in 1903, with the exception of a handicap access renovation completed in 1991 that included an elevator addition and renovated restrooms.
In 2022, the Trustees were able to renovate the Community Program Room with the help of a donation from the Community Home Foundation and State Aid. This created a more comfortable space to offer performances, music, crafts, children’s events, and a place for quiet study when not in use for a program.
The Town of Clinton filed a Letter of Intent on behalf of the Bigelow Library with the Board of Library Commissioners to pursue and apply for a grant in the next round of Mass. Public Library Construction Program (MPLCP) grants. Article 28 –to apply for, accept, and expend the grant funds–on the June 2023 Town Meeting Warrant was passed by a majority.
The library staff and consultants will be holding focus groups and open forums and soliciting feedback from Clinton residents. If you would like more information or would like to be more involved, please stop by the library.