Boston—The Boston Athenæum, a distinguished and vibrant independent library and cultural institution, announces its expansion via a long-term lease of 19,400 square feet in an adjacent building at 14 Beacon Street.
The lease will provide the Athenæum’s historic and contemporary collections with room to flourish, while better serving patrons and simplifying staff workflows. It will:
- restore much-needed space for library members in the peaceful, architecturally-significant reading rooms at 10 ½ Beacon Street, while enhancing acoustics and accessibility;
- add shelves for the continually-growing library of more than half a million items in the circulating library;
- increase and improve spaces for events, discussion groups, visitors, and rentals;
- create connected workspaces for cataloging, conserving, digitizing, curating, and teaching with the special collections, comprising more than 100,000 rare books, manuscripts, artworks and other materials; and
- connect floorplates in the two buildings to facilitate open circulation between patron and staff spaces in both 10 ½ Beacon and 14 Beacon, a move that will foster collaboration and innovation to serve patrons better.
“The board has long known of the need for additional space to care for our library’s valuable and ever-expanding holdings,” says John S. Reed, president of the Athenæum’s Board of Trustees. “We looked at a range of options for responsible growth over time, including moving collections off-site—a prospect soundly rejected by our members. After months of careful deliberation, we are happy to have identified a practical, cost-effective solution right next door.”
“Contiguous space has become available only a handful of times in the last century,” Reed says. “We appreciate the singular opportunity to enter into a long-term lease with Faros Properties. They appreciate the Athenæum’s mission of engaging people who seek knowledge, and stewarding our library full of treasures. They understand the importance of this historic library to the city of Boston.”
The two-year project is advancing with an experienced team: owner’s project managers Smith+St. John; the architecture firm of Schwartz/Silver, known for its award-winning designs for libraries, museums, and historically-significant structures; and Windover Construction of Beverly, MA, a construction management firm with expertise in historic renovation and preservation for museum, cultural, academic, and institutional clients.
“The expansion will benefit Athenæum members and staff, and it will also serve those in the scholarly community who will come to conduct research,” says Creelea Pangaro, a vice president of the Board. “We will be able to move employees out of improvised workspaces that developed over time in the architecturally-significant rooms at 10½ Beacon, and into connected, efficiently-organized offices at number 14. We will be renovating 2,000 square feet of space for storing our special collections. Most significantly, the move will free up more than 4,000 square feet in the one-of-a-kind library environment for the use of the library’s devoted members, who come to read, think, write, and gather together for discussions and events.”
Additionally, members and visitors will find improved first-floor facilities for visiting, reading, and attending lectures and concerts. Beautiful, rentable meeting and social spaces will be made available to the Boston community during times when members are not using them for discussion groups, book talks, and other activities.
This year marks the Athenæum’s 170th anniversary at 10½ Beacon Street, an edifice that was named a National Historic Landmark in 1966. The library has undergone renovations frequently through its history, to accommodate the rapid growth of the collections, fire-proof the building, and install modern climate control, security, and accessibility elements. Partial expansion into the basement and first floor of 14 Beacon was completed in 2002; before that, the last major space expansion took place in 1914-15 with the addition of two additional levels, the fourth and fifth floors, to the original structure.
“The Athenæum is a breathtaking special resource—for its members, our neighbors in Boston, and scholars from around the world,” Pangaro says. “Over many decades, the spaces and activities within its walls have evolved to meet the needs of library patrons—some changing, and others constant. We’re proud to announce a thoughtful expansion that will build on the library’s legacy and demonstrate our investment in its continuation and betterment, far into the future.”
Image: Rendering of the renovated fourth floor.