The Pollard Memorial Library will be an increasingly vibrant asset in the revitalization of Lowell as Lowell's premier information center dedicated to: fostering education and literacy, nurturing lifelong learning, and promoting personal and cultural enrichment.
The Pollard Memorial Library is Lowell's gateway to knowledge, meeting the information needs and enriching the quality of life in our community. The mission of the library is to provide diverse collections, state of the art technology, appealing programs and multiple services to Lowell's population.
The library offers children of the community an active library program stressing the value of reading and communicating. Students of all ages are provided with information and services to support all academic levels. In addition, the Pollard Library operates a large Literacy Volunteers program that has provided free, confidential one-on-one tutoring for hundreds of Greater Lowell residents since 1984.
From its first collection of 3,500 volumes, the Pollard Memorial Library today houses a collection of approximately 236,000 volumes, plus videos, CDs, DVDs, microfilm collections and museum passes. Membership in the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium gives Lowell residents direct access to the holdings of 35 libraries in the region. Circulation of materials amounts to almost 250,000 annually, with approximately one-third of this activity occurring in the children's collection.
Lowell's first public library was established in 1844. Originally located in rooms of the old City Hall on Merrimack Street, the holdings of this library constituted approximately 3,500 volumes. Some 28 years later, outgrowing this space, the library was moved to the Masonic Temple, also on Merrimack Street.
In 1889, the Lowell City Council passed a resolution providing for the erection of a new City Hall. Shortly thereafter, as a result of a petition by Lowell citizens, the Council authorized a second building to be located adjacent to this new City Hall, to be dedicated to the memory of the Lowell men who had lost their lives in the Civil War. This building would also be the site of the new library.
During the ceremony to lay the cornerstone, Edward T. Russell, Commander of the B.F. Butler Post of the G.A.R., said the new building would be "a monument to the heroism of the past and a storehouse of knowledge for the future."
For almost 90 years the building was known simply as Memorial Hall and the library it housed was called the Lowell City Library. In 1981, it was renamed the Pollard Memorial Library in memory of the late Mayor Samuel S. Pollard.
"Altogether a creditable building" boasted a local newspaper when Lowell's Memorial Building opened in 1893. The structure was a handsome Richardsonian Romanesque structure, dedicated to the Civil War dead of Lowell. The Memorial Building housed the public library and a large public assembly hall. A disastrous fire in 1915 nearly destroyed this beautiful building, and left the Memorial Hall a blackened ruin. Immediately the city began to rebuild. Frederick W. Stickney, architect of the original structure, planned the reconstruction of Memorial Hall. The budget of $62,927 for the entire building did not permit the restoration of the elaborate coved ceiling, carved oak wainscoting, and massive chandelier of the original hall. Instead a more modest, and modern, design was chosen. The eight original leaded glass commemorative windows were reproduced, at a cost of $1,475. But instead of carved wood, the walls were stenciled and huge murals were installed. Marble and bronze memorial plaques were restored, adding the names of those Lowell men sacrificed in the Spanish-American War. The Hall's major new embellishments, its three Civil War murals were a bargain. They depict three important experiences in the Civil War career of General U.S. Grant, and were painted by French-born artist Paul Phillipoteaux. Phillipoteaux is best known for his painting of the Cyclorama of Gettysburg, now permanently housed at the Gettysburg National Battlefield. The Memorial Hall canvases were painted for traveling carnival display and were purchased by the City of Lowell for a mere $1,500 from the Griffin Amusement Company.
Years passed, memories of the Civil War faded, and Memorial Hall was eclipsed by other large assembly halls and auditoria in the city. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was used as office space by the Lowell School Department. The rebirth of Lowell in the 1980s provided the impetus for the rehabilitation of many of her historic structures, including the Library's Memorial Hall. With Federal and private funding the Memorial Hall was restored to its former glory, and served again as an assembly hall and meeting room, hosting art shows, lectures, book festivals and other programs.
The Library's recent renovation and restoration finds Memorial Hall's function changed again. Memorial Hall is now home of the Library's Reference and Local History Department, bringing into vivid portraiture our mission and history as a center for knowledge and history in Lowell.
Many visitors to the Pollard Memorial Library inquire about the large vase encased on the landing going up to the Library's second floor Memorial Hall. This Imari porcelain vase, standing over 5 feet high, was made in Arita Japan, by the artisan Kanzo. It was believed to be the largest porcelain specimen produced in Japan, and was exhibited at the Columbian Exposition in 1893, the Pan American Exposition in 1901, and later at the Paris Exposition. The dancers on the vase are depicted performing the Flower Festival Dance, and illustrate the costumes of 17th-century Japan. The vase was purchased by Lowell businessman and philanthropist Freeman Ballard Shedd, and presented to the city library in 1909.****With thanks to Helene Desjarlais, from her pamphlet, "One Man's Legacy: the Life of Lowell Philanthropist, Freeman Ballard Shedd."
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