Today, Arthur Wilderson was telling us about a delightful old children's book he had found, with a description of "falconry" with shrikes, in the court of Louis XIII, and that nobody wrote such books anymore. I was suddenly flooded with recollections of reading 19th century books in the dark stacks of the Ames Free library in Easton, and as I thought about it, I realized that growing up in an almost feudal town where the short- lived Gilded Age architectural genius H H Richardson, grandson of Joseph Priestley and teacher of Louis Sullivan, designed all of the public buildings and many of the more opulent private ones, where one (quite benign) family owned more than half the land of the second largest (in area, not people) town in the Commonwealth, was not... usual. (We won't tonight get deeply into the fact that Portuguese had been the second language there, south of the line where towns looked to New Bedford for influence, not Boston, since the 1700's at least. When I was young I knew old people, Portuguese and "Swamp Yankee", who had never been to Boston 20 miles north).
I wrote to Arthur and the others: "I loved books like that when I was young (and now of course). I had access to the incredibly endowed town library, built in 1877 and funded by the Ames family, who owned most of the land in Easton (George Plympton, the writer, was a first cousin), designed by Gilded Age architect H H Richardson, filled with 19th and early 20th c books, especially on nature and science, as one family member-- Oakes I think-- was a great Harvard botanist, who also gave much to the Harvard Museum complex. My parents showed me Kipling, but the Ames Free Library brought me Roy Chapman Andrews, Beebe, original Darwin (they let me into the stacks when my reading ability was established)."
Of course I thought that all kids had such libraries, just as I thought that my weird school, housed in a pseudo- Elizabethan half- timbered mansion on a square mile of woodland, with servants' quarters, a quarry, and a chapel that had been a ballroom, was normal...
The library-- the stacks occupied the whole left side and were dark and tall and seemed endless.
This one, probably taken earlier, looks more like the way I remember it.