Portland Public Library

Portland Public Library is the main library of the public library system in Portland, Maine, USA. It is located at 5 Monument Square on Congress Street in the Old Port of Portland, Maine. The library has three neighborhood branches, Burbank branch (in Deering), Peaks Island branch, and Riverton branch.

Portland Public Library
LocationPortland, Maine, United States
Branches3 (Deering, Peaks Island, Riverton)
Access and use
Population served66,194
Other information
DirectorSarah Campbell
Portland Public's Entrance. Visitors are greeted by The Little Water Girl which has been at the Library since 1979.


Portland AthenaeumEdit

The Portland Athenaeum (1826–1876) was a subscription library incorporated in Portland by "Ichabod Nichols, Edward Payson, Albion K. Parris, Prentiss Mellen, William P. Preble, Ashur Ware, Stephen Longfellow, Nicholas Emery, Isaac Adams, Simon Greenleaf, Joseph Adams, William Willis, William B. Sewall, Charles S. Daveis, Robert Ilsley, Andrew L. Emerson, John Mussey, William Swan, Alford Richardson, Barrett Potter, Eliphalet Greely, James C. Churchill, George Warren, Nathaniel Mitchell, Benjamin Willis, Jeremiah Haskell, Oliver Gerrish,[1] Joseph Harrod, Jacob Knight, Henry Smith [and] William Wood."[2][3][4] As gratefully noted in a local newspaper in 1826:[5]

Such an institution has long been a desideratum among us. Other towns inferior to this in size and wealth have gone before us in the career of literary enterprize ... and yet we are not willing to allow that there is any lack of literary elements in the town, but they lie scattered and dormant. There is no common centre of gravity to bring them into healthful action; they are like coals lying asunder which give no heat. We have scholars in town ... but their lights are hid under a bushel. ... We want an institution which shall bring them in contact, and give them the benefit of mutual light and heat, and action. ... [It] shall combine a reading-room, a library and cabinet. ... It is contemplated to unite, if practicable, the two reading-rooms now open in town, together with the Portland Library.

Early supporters included Stephen Longfellow (father of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow),[6][7] and William Willis.[8] By 1856, the Athenaeum had "160 proprietors and ... a library, in the hall second story of the Canal Bank building [on Middle Street], of 8,500 volumes."[9] James Merrill served as librarian, c. 1850.[10]

In 1861, the Athenaeum erected a brick building on a lot previously purchased in Plum street.[11] By 1864, the library contained 10,647 bound books, and additional pamphlets.[11]

In 1866, the Great Fire swept through Portland, and the Athenaeum lost its collection in the flames.[12]

Portland Institute and Public LibraryEdit

In 1867 the Portland Institute and Public Library was formed, with its library located in Portland City Hall.[13] In 1876, the Athenaeum merged into the Portland Institute and Public Library; this bestowed the Atheneum's Plum Street property on the institute, although the library remained at City Hall.[14]

In January 1889, the Portland Institute and Public Library was renamed as Portland Public Library, and became free for readers to access.[14]

Portland Public LibraryEdit

View of the Portland Public Library, 2008, from Monument Square before remodeling

In 1889, the library moved into what is now known as the Baxter Building, at 619 Congress Street.[15]

The main library moved to Monument Square in 1979.[15] A major renovation of the main building by Scott Simons Architects was completed in 2010.[16]


  1. ^ "Oliver Gerrish (1796-1888)". Genealogical and family history of the state of Maine, Volume 3. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company. 1909.
  2. ^ Special laws of the state of Maine passed by the Legislature. Portland: Smith & Robinson. 1826 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ The "Portland Athenaeum & Reading Room" had been in operation as early as 1822; cf. Eastern_Argus, 01-01-1822
  4. ^ "Portland Athenaeum & Reading Room". Eastern Argus. December 13, 1825.
  5. ^ "Portland Athenaeum". Eastern Argus. February 28, 1826.
  6. ^ Eastern Argus. May 16, 1826. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Eastern Argus. January 25, 1831. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ Eastern Argus. December 18, 1827. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ Beckett, S.B. (1856). "Portland Athenum". The Portland Directory and Reference Book for 1856–7. Brown Thurston. p. 312 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Beckett, S.B. (1850). "Portland Anthenæum". The Portland Reference Book and City Directory for 1850–51. Thurston & Co. p. 200 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ a b Willis, William (1865). The History of Portland, from 1632 to 1864 (2nd ed.). Portland: Bailey & Noyes – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Neal, John (1866). Account of the great conflagration in Portland, July 4th, & 5th, 1866. Portland: Starbird & Twitchell – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Dedicatory exercises of the Baxter Building: to the uses of the Portland Public Library and Maine Historical Society, Thursday, February 21, 1889. Auburn, Maine: Lakeside Press. 1889. pp. 15–16 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ a b Dedicatory exercises of the Baxter Building: to the uses of the Portland Public Library and Maine Historical Society, Thursday, February 21, 1889. Auburn, Maine: Lakeside Press. 1889. pp. 19–23 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ a b Collins, Kate Irish (18 April 2017). "At 150, Portland Public Library still celebrates ideas, inclusiveness". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved 6 July 2020.
  16. ^ "Portland Public Library Renovation". portlandarchitects.org. Portland Society for Architecture. 2010. Archived from the original on 25 July 2014. Retrieved 17 July 2014.

Further readingEdit

  • Portland (Me .). Public Library (1890), Catalogue of Books in the Portland Public Library: With By- Laws, Regulations, Names of Officers, OCLC 27860933, OL 20615848M

External linksEdit

43°39′28″N 70°15′33″W / 43.65770°N 70.25910°W / 43.65770; -70.25910