Library building

Keene Public Library

Artwork at Keene Public Library

Mount Monadnock by William Preston Phelps (1848-1923)

Perhaps the most prominent of the library's paintings is visible when entering the library, an original oil painting by William Preston Phelps (1848 – 1923). It pictures Mount Monadnock from the Dublin side.

Phelps was born on a farm in the Pottersville section of Dublin, in what is now Chesham. He was apprenticed to a sign painter in Lowell, Massachusetts as a young man. Prominent citizens of Lowell recognized his artistic talent and raised money for him to attend the Royal Academy of Art in Munich, Germany. While there, he became a long-time friend of American impressionist William Merritt Chase. He studied and traveled throughout Europe, eventually returning to Lowell, where he set up a studio and painted throughout New England, Grand Manan in Nova Scotia, and the American West. In the West, he painted what is believed to be the first landscape of the Grand Canyon and one of his greatest masterpieces, "The Grand Canyon of Colorado."

He returned to Chesham when his father died, building a studio across the street from the family home. His paintings of the local New Hampshire landscape soon earned him the name "painter of Monadnock," and his views of Mount Monadnock were a great success.

After his son and wife died, Phelps began drinking heavily. Destitute and in trouble with the law, he was committed to the asylum in Concord. His farm, studio, and paintings were sold at auction, and he died in Concord in 1923.

His paintings have been exhibited widely in New Hampshire, Lowell, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts museums.

The Club Women of Keene donated this painting of Mount Monadnock to the Keene Public Library in 1900.

Sadly, his masterpiece, The Grand Canyon of Colorado, is one of several works that remain missing today.

The piece was donated to the Library by Mrs. George Wardwell in 1882.


Symonds Portraits, artist unknown

Entering the Library, on the immediate left and right of the lobby, are oil paintings of Mr. John Symonds and his wife, Caroline (Robbins) Symonds. The unidentified artist painted both portraits in the late 19th or early 20th century. Mr. Symonds wears a black suit, white shirt, and tie in the portrait and tie. Mrs. Symonds wears a black dress with a white ruff, bow, and gold jewelry.

Mr. Symonds was born in Hancock in 1816. He moved to Keene and established a successful tannery near what is now called Symonds Place, off West Street in West Keene. On his death in 1885, he bequeathed half of his estate to the City of Keene, the income to go to his wife during her lifetime, with the following provisions: "to build a public library building and purchase land therefore and to provide books and reading matter and to take care of same." The funds were used to add a wing to the original library building so patrons could access the stacks for the first time. That area is in what is now the main lobby. The addition was dedicated in 1912.


Thayer Portrait by Frederick Porter Vinton (1846-1911)

Over the fireplace in the southwest reading room is an oil portrait of Edward Carrington Thayer by the American painter Frederick Porter Vinton. It is believed to have been painted sometime between 1878-1882. The painting retains its original gold period frame. Mr. Thayer is seated, wearing a dark suit, and painted against a dark background.

Edward Thayer was born in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in 1828. He was manager and part owner of several textile mills in Ashuelot, N.H., and lived on Main Street in Keene in the house that once held Miss Catherine Fiske's school and now serves as the residence for the Keene State College president.

Thayer was also president and director for several banks in the area, had railroad interests, and served as City Councilor and Alderman. His philanthropy benefitted both towns in Massachusetts and the Keene area through donations to start the Elliot Community Hospital, the YMCA on West Street, a library in Uxbridge, and a home for City Hospital nurses in Worcester.

In 1898 he purchased the lot and buildings at 79 West Street and proposed the creation of a new public library in Keene. The City accepted Thayer's offer, and he died a month later with the project just beginning. His widow Julia and niece Margaret followed through on the renovations necessary to complete the library.

Frederick Porter Vinton was born in Bangor, Maine, and lived in Boston, working as a banker and bookkeeper. He studied art under William Rimmer of the Lowell Institute and traveled throughout Europe. He specialized in portraits, which are now in many museum collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.


Nims Portrait,  artist unknown

One of the most interesting paintings is in the room containing the library's Henkel Room. This is a portrait of Mr. David Nims, who was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, on March 30, 1716, and died in Keene on July 21, 1803. One of the original settlers of Keene, Nims became the first town scribe in 1737 and town clerk in 1753. Jeremiah Stiles, Jr. painted the portrait in the 1790s. Mrs. Dauphin W. Nims gave the portrait to the City of Keene in 1895; the City Council transferred ownership to the library in 1899.



Seth Thomas No. 13 Office Calendar Clock     

This clock, secured to the right wall as you enter the audio room from the main hall, is believed to be part of the original furnishing of the building given by Edward Carrington Thayer to the City of Keene in 1899. The date of manufacture would be sometime between 1880 and 1900.

The clock is described on page 44 of "Seth Thomas Clocks & Movements," by Tran Duy Ly, Arlington Book Company, Inc., 1966, and has an original catalog date of 1892. The clocks were available in walnut, cherry, and oak; ours being walnut. Tran Duy Ly's book indicates that the No. 13 had a 55-A time-only movement, described as follows: "(1907 catalog) 8 day, time, weight Nos. 12 and 13 Office Calendar, lantern pinions. Pendulum, from the center of the movement to end of rating screw, 22 1/8", with No.27 ball; diameter of ball 4 9/16". Wood rod. Crown dead-beat, center 1" length 7 3/16", width 5 3/8", depth 4 7/16"."

The late Peter G. Warren meticulously and authentically restored the clock in 2001, and a complete and detailed history of his restoration is on file at the library.

Today the clock is maintained by Richard Bates, Bates Antique Clocks of Newfane, VT.


Joan of Arc Lampartist unknown

Near the library's reading rooms, at the foot of the stairs, is a statue of Joan of Arc holding a lighting device with three lights, probably originally gas lamps. Dressed in armor, Joan looks upward, her helmet and gloves at her feet. On the base is the name A. CARRIER, with oak leaves and acorns. Cast in the base is "Poilevin fct" which may be the name of the metal caster. . The statue is possibly bronze, but more likely zinc or some other white metal with a bronze patina and areas of gilding, and is probably a variation after a bronze sculpture by Carrier, who was a 19th-century French artist.

 It is most likely a variation after a bronze sculpture by the 19th-century French artist and sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.


Wright Portrait by Emile Antoine Verpilleux (1888-1964)

In the southeast reading room (on your left facing West Street) hangs an oil portrait of John Patterson Wright, a Library trustee from 1944-1968. Mr. Wright was a Keene businessman who owned and operated Wright's Silver Cream Company. He chaired the Library's 50th-anniversary celebration and was appointed to N.H. State Library Council. In 1958 he donated his collection of 1,500 historical and genealogical books and pamphlets to the Library. This collection was transferred for safekeeping to the Historical Society of Cheshire County.

This room was named in honor of John Wright's service to the Library community and other members of the Wright family: Emeline Colony Kimball Wright, John M. Wright, and Patricia B. Wright, all of whom served as Library trustees.

The portrait, painted by Verpilleux in 1953, was presented to the Library by his family.



Faulkner Drawings by Barry Faulkner (1881-1966)

At the top of the original stairs on the second floor of the original Thayer building are four large detailed pencil drawings that nationally known mural painter Barry Faulkner presented to the library in 1944.

Faulkner was born in Keene, New Hampshire, in 1881 and entered the American Academy in Rome, studying painting in relation to architecture. While abroad, he traveled and studied with George de Forest Brush, Abbott Thayer, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. His murals are found in the National Capital building in Washington, D. C., in several state capitols, and in three American Military Memorial chapels abroad. Faulkner prepared these four murals as studies for the actual colored murals, which are located in the Concord, New Hampshire, State House.

In 1883, Elizabeth J. Faulkner made gifts to the library in memory of her brother William J. Faulkner. Her gift continues today as the Elizabeth Jones Faulkner Memorial Fund for the support of the library. Other members of the Faulkner family have served and supported the library for over one hundred years, the next being Herbert Kimball Faulkner, MD, who in 1899 was appointed to be one of the first trustees of the newly organized Keene Public Library by Edward Carrington Thayer, serving from 1899 to 1931. H.K. Faulkner was also one of the founders of the Elliot Community Hospital and donated land for the Keene Country Club. His daughter, Elizabeth Faulkner Lacey, was a trustee from 1935 to 1973. Philip H. Faulkner, Esquire, was a trustee from 1908 to 1959 and Board President for 41 years. Philip H. Faulkner, Jr., served as a trustee from 1968 to 1995, as a Board President and later as Treasurer, and upon his retirement named Trustee Emeritus. In 1992, he was selected as New Hampshire Library Trustee of the Year and served on the Board of the New Hampshire Trustee Association from June 1944 to January 1996.


Wardwell Photographs, Anne R. Wardwell

Located in the Faulkner Gallery and Trustees Room is a series of photographs taken by Boston-born photographer Anne R. Wardwell. The Cheshire Arts Council commissioned her in 1975 to document "the greatest and lasting impressions of Keene," inch included a public exhibit of 34 photographs of buildings and landscapes, many of which are now gone. The entire collection, along with its negatives, is owned by the Historical Society of Cheshire County and is displayed here with their permission. 


Original captions by photographer Anne R. Wardwell for the 1975 exhibit    

"The Character of Keene, Illustrations of Some of Its Architectural Heritage"

1.         ENTRANCE, ELLIOT HOUSE, Main Street, c.1811 (currently Keene State College, Elliot Hall, administration building)

For many years it served as the hospital, a symbol of the community, and an expression of the delicacy and refinement characteristic of the Federal period. This style reached the height of its expression in the works of Charles Bulfinch (Boston) and Samuel McIntire (Salem).

2.         GENERAL JUSTUS PERRY HOUSE, Roxbury Court, c.1816. Moved (currently private residence)

The most elegant example of the Federal Style of architecture in the City of Keene.

3.         PRENTISS-COLONY HOUSE, 70 Court Street, c.1828 (currently Keene Senior Center)

Constructed by John Prentiss, founder of the N.H. Sentinel, the style of the house is basically Federal. The recessed wall arches in the gable end, which are also found on the Bullard and Shedd building at the corner of Winter Street in the Square, are particularly interesting.

4.         PARKER-BATCHELDER HOUSE, 85 Washington Street, c.1833 (currently professional offices)

This Marlborough granite house is a transitional building combining features of the Federal period, such as the Palladian window, elegant entrances with fanlights, and elongated first story windows with the Greek Revival pediment and rather square and solid form.

5.         STONEHOLM, c.1844 (future corporate offices)

Like the Parker-Batchelder House, this building is constructed of Marlborough granite. The taller proportions giving the house a more cubic form, more pronounced pediment and trabeated entrances recessed in the wall, relate this building to the Greek Revival period.

6.         GREEK REVIVAL WITH GOTHIC DETAILS, Summer Street (currently professional offices)

Although this house is basically Greek Revival in style, the dormer windows with steep pitched roofs and the pointed arch louvers above the windows and arcade are Gothic details.

7.         ITALIAN VILLA AND BARN, Winter Street, c.1850s-70s (currently private residence)

The style is characterized by the large paired brackets prominently displayed under the deep eaves. Also typical are the flat board walls, which simulate masonry, and the well- defined windows.

8.         HENRY COLONY HOUSE, 60 West Street, c.1869 (currently Keene Public Library)

The Library’s mansard, or Second Empire style, the trademark of this style popular in the 1860s and 70s, is the very distinctive roof with its elaborate dormer windows.

9.         MANSARD HOUSE, 173 Washington Street, c.1865-1880 (currently private residence)

This house, too, exhibits the basic features of the American adaptation of the Second Empire style, although the decorative details are rather stylized and flat.

10.       QUEEN ANNE STYLE HOUSE, 122 Court Street, c.1885 (currently private residence)

Domestic architecture of this style is characterized by an irregularity of plan and massing as well as a variety of wall patterns. Windows take on many shapes and sizes and are placed irregularly on the walls. Roofs are high and multiple. Ornamental details tend to be small scaled. Verandas often wrap around the building and towers may be set at corners.

11.       CHARLES E. JOSLIN HOUSE, 150 Court Street, c.1889 (currently private residence)

Frank Smith of Boston was the architect of this Queen Anne House and Cassius White of Keene the builder. The Queen Anne style originated in England in 1868 when Richard Norman Shaw designed ‘Leyswood.’ Its popularity in America dates from the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876.

12.       CHESHIRE RAILROAD BRICK SHOPS, 149 Emerald Street, c.1866 (currently The Center of Keene, retail complex)

These 415 foot long shops were designed by Francis A. Perry, master mechanic, who supervised their construction.

13.       FAULKNER AND COLONY MILLS, 222 West Street, c.1830 and 1860s (currently The Colony Mill Marketplace)

Two distinct styles appear in this building.  The earlier portion termed “corporate style” reflects the domestic architecture of the period; the later tower and west portion indicates the builders’ ability to create a form which both expresses and fulfills the function of the building.

14.       ASHUELOT DAM, MILL, AND MT. MONADNOCK (currently Ashuelot River Park, alternate view of Colony Mill)           

Three features which symbolize the early industrial economy of Keene.

15.       COURT STREET FROM THE SQUARE (currently professional offices)

Portrays a row of architecturally impressive buildings which provide a good and strong transition between the domestic architecture which dominates Court Street and the commercial buildings on the Square.

16.       ASHUELOT PARK (Downtown green space)

This photo shows the first phase of a greenbelt park through Keene. This concept was promoted by Frederick Law Olmsted when he designed Boston’s park system, the ‘emerald necklace.’


Fetching the Doctor by John Rogers (1829-1904)

At the top of the stairway in the Thayer mansion on your right is the Price Room, containing a sculpture designed and produced by John Rogers. "Fetching the Doctor" is one of many mass-produced sculptures designed and produced by John Rogers, who lived from 1829 to 1895. 

The sculpture is made of plaster coated with zinc white and burnt umber and depicts a young boy in a full-on gallop returning home from fetching the doctor.

Rogers was one of the most popular sculptors of the 19th century, selling over 80,000 works throughout his career. Known as "The People's Sculptor," he worked to attract a broad audience for his sculptures.


Further Information

Further information on the local subjects of the paintings may be found at the Historical Society of Cheshire County. The information in this pamphlet was compiled from the website of Monadnock Art – Friends of the Dublin Art Colony; newsletters of the Historical Society of Cheshire County; a pamphlet entitled "A Painter of Monadnock" by Charles E. Hurd, reprinted from the New England Magazine issue dated November 1897; and, from library records.










library logo