Kittery, Maine's oldest town, is home to the nation's first United States Naval shipyard. In this seacoast setting, for over a century, a Victorian Queen Anne-style library has stood regally, seemingly oblivious to summer's salty sea breezes and winter's icy blizzards.
The Rice Public Library building, on the list of the National Registry of Historic Places, was designed by S.S. Woodcock of Boston. Arabella Rice of Portsmouth, NH, launched her idea of building the library in 1868 when she bequeathed a $30,000 endowment to create the Rice Free Public Library. Miss Rice made the donation in memory of her father, Robert Rice, a seaman and Kittery native.
In 1874 trustees organized to oversee the completion of Arabella Rice's dream. At that time, they opened a library in one room of the nearby Austin Block building. The fledgling collection boasted 1,000 volumes. In 1888 the graceful structure still in use today was erected. The $18,500 project included the the furnishings.
A century later, in 1989, the trustees purchased and renovated a former court house building, now known as the Taylor Annex. This smaller structure stands diagonally across from the original Rice Building and was named for Paul E. Taylor, a prominent physician in town, and a former trustee of the Library. The building was re-designed and renovated by Coastal Architects of Kittery Point, Maine. Dr. Taylor's office was next to the building now bearing his name. Today, both buildings serve the community, housing an ever-growing collection of books, CDs, video and audio cassettes. More than a century after its completion, the Rice Building, standing on the crest of a hill, is still the most impressive building in Kittery.
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