The Bancroft Memorial Library

In the center of the small community of Hopedale sets the Bancroft Memorial Library, an example of old English style architecture. It was through the diligence of the townspeople that this building was erected. At the first town meeting held in Hopedale, the townspeople voted to build their own public library for use by all the residents, Because the people were concerned with their government and community, the town not only has a beautiful edifice but also a fine educational facility.

The first public library, called the Hopedale Community Library, was started in 1842 with 50 volumes, In charge of the library was the Department of Education, Arts and Sciences. [A department of the Hopedale Community.] The library’s establishment in 1842 ranks it among the first in point of time, and entitles its founders and supporters to a high degree of commendation.

In 1850, the library contained 423 volumes and each year it was increased by donations of books and cash subscriptions.

At the first opportunity, after the incorporation of Hopedale as a town, its citizens expressed a desire and intention to have a Public Library.At the first town meeting they nominated town officers, and the Trustees of the Public Library were included in these nominations.

It was voted to appoint three Trustees who would be annually elected at the town meeting. It also stated that the Trustees would not receive any compensation for their services. The Trustees would present to the town each February, a report regarding what had happened at the library the past year and also they were to turn over,to the town treasurer, any monies that the library had received. These rules were stated in the records of the annual report.

 In 1886 there were frequent inquiries by the residents concerning the addition of a reading room or expansion of the library. There was no suitable place for the library until Mr. George Draper offered to the Trustees, rent free, the rooms formerly occupied by the Post Office. On December 27 these rooms were opened.

Through the generosity of Mr. George Draper, who gave the Town Hall to Hopedale, the library received a portion of the building to be used by the residents.

The keys to the library were delivered to the Trustees on October 29, 1887. At a town meeting held on November 8, 1887, the townspeople voted to appropriate some funds to furnish the rooms of the library. On December 24, a number of young men, eager and with willing hands, moved all the books to the new library. Again we see that the residents of the small Hopedale community not only took an active part in the running of their town government but also were willing to work to organize a library.

 After being occupied at the Town Hall for some thirteen years, the library was moved to the new and present home, The Bancroft Memorial Library. The building was a gift given by Mr. Joseph B. Bancroft in memory of his wife, Mrs. Sylvia W. Thwing Bancroft. On December 14, at 2 o’clock, a dedication was held to which the public was invited to attend and the new library was officially opened.

The library is a replica of Merton College Chapel at Oxford. The design of the building is that of old English architecture.  The designer of the building was Mr. C. Howard Walker from Boston.  It is interesting to note that the granite used in the construction of the building came from the Norcross Brothers quarry in Milford, Massachusetts.

The first librarian of the building was Miss Anna M. Bancroft, daughter of the donor.  Another interesting note is that at this time patrons of the library were allowed to take out two books at a time instead of one which had previously been the rule.

While the Drapers were in Rome, Mrs. Draper, who was acquainted with the eminent sculptor Waldo Storey, took his advice and had him design a fountain surmounted by a statue of Hope. Finally, after a two year delay, the statue was placed next to the Bancroft Memorial Library.

On November 12, 1904, General William Draper and his daughter Margaret presented the fountain as a gift from Mrs. Susan Preston Draper to the Chairman of Selectmen, Mr. Edwin H. Darling, on behalf of the town of Hopedale.

At one time there were two glass tumblers placed on either side of the fountain which were used for drinking. Dogs would drink out of the lower bowl. When Massachusetts passed a law forbidding public drinking cups, the tumblers were removed. Paper cups were substituted, but this idea eventually failed and was abandoned. The figure of Hope, with her head slightly inclined, seems to be making sure that the cornucopias a full and spilling over with plenty for the town of Hopedale. Also making up this fountain are festoons of wheat, fruit and acorns. The dolphin, Medusa, and especially the magnificent eagles, make up the rest of this marvelous work.

Even though the fountain is not used, it still has the distinction that no other town has of comparable size.

The sculptor of the fountain was Waldo Storey, and the fountain was made of Carrara marble, quarried in Italy.

In 1927 there was a physical change in the building. A room in the basement section was made into a children’s room. This room was made possible by a gift from Miss Anna M. Bancroft. When the room was first opened, it contained 1500 volumes and this number would be increased each year. Robert Allen Cook was the architect of the room. As soon as the children’s room opened, much interest was shown and numbers of children would come daily to borrow books. Many parents, as well as their children have taken advantage of these fine facilities.

Today the adult library has an excellent reference room and reading rooms. There is a wonderful variety of books available both in the adult section and the children’s section. The children’s room conducts various programs, such as a summer reading program and a weekly story hour.  Today, just as they were many years ago, the trustees are elected by the people. They have a responsibility to the townspeople to make sure that the library is run properly and that it fits the needs of the people of the community. If not for the diligence and concern of the early settlers of the community, Hopedale would not have such an excellent library as The Bancroft Memorial Library.

Written by Frederick Oldfield in 1979. Fred’s grandmother, Marjorie E. Hattersley served as children’s librarian from September 1953 until her retirement in March 1994. The children’s room was renamed the Marjorie E. Hattersley Room on March 27, 1994.  Fred is now (2006) the Chairman of the Bancroft Library Board of Trustees.

                                                 The Bancroft Memorial Library

HOPEDALE – One of the most beautiful buildings to be found in Hopedale is the very impressive Bancroft Memorial Library. Pleasantly located on Hopedale Street in the center of town, its architectural design is that of the modified old English style.

Milford granite was used throughout the construction of the entire irregular shaped building. Although not completely verified, it is believed that the granite came from the Norcross Brothers quarry on East Main Street in Milford.

The structure fronts on Hopedale Street for 72 feet, it is about 74 feet deep and is about 50 feet high. The lot of land that the building occupies is 102 feet long and it adjoins the former home of Joseph B. Bancroft.

In addition to the building itself, the trim work is fashioned in granite.

The edifice was designed by a Boston architect named C. Howard Walker and it was dedicated on Dec. 14, 1899.

The beautiful main entrance underneath a triple archway is reached by walking up eight semi-circular granite steps. A large central arch is flanked by a pair of smaller side arches recessed in granite.

Seven foot high front entrance oak doors are under the center arch. Above the door opening, on a semi-circular glass window are the words, The Bancroft Memorial Library, done in gold leaf.

Directly inside the front doors is a vestibule which has a mosaic floor and semi-cylindrical ceiling of plaster and stucco. The walls of the vestibule are panelled with oak to a height of four feet above the floor.

A pair of swinging doors in a simulated arched opening allows entrance directly into the main library area.

On the right hand side of the vestibule, but opening from the main library area, is a small alcove, now being used for utility purposes.

On the left side of the vestibule another small alcove is reached directly from the vestibule. This one contains an old book case, filled mostly with old books.

Standing at the entrance to the main library section, the librarians’ desk is seen straight ahead with an office and basement stairway located to the left of the desk. Catalog files are located nearby.

The reading room is located on the right hand side of the building. It is fully equipped with necessary furniture and an immense ornately carved fireplace occupies most of the north wall in this room.

A bronze memorial tablet dedicated to the memory of Joseph B. Bancroft has been installed in this room.

Large portraits of Mrs. W.W. Dutcher, Mrs. Eben Draper, Mr. Eben Draper [Actually, they are of Mr. and Mrs. Ebenezer Draper], Mr. W.W. Dutcher, Mrs. George Draper and Mr. George Draper are hung on the walls of the reading room. (They’re now in the reference room.)

A reference room is located on the left (south) side of the library. It is equipped and arranged for reference book consultations.

Large portraits of Mr. Joseph Bancroft, Mrs. Joseph Bancroft and Adin Ballou hang prominently on the walls of the reference room. (The Bancrofts are now in the reading room. Ballou is in the trustees’ room.)

In addition to these likenesses is a very old map of Hopedale along with several old pictures of equipment once used by the Grafton and Upton Railroad, headquartered in Hopedale. (A picture of several G&U locomotives is downstairs.)

There is a room located between the reference room and the front of the building. It contains a fine old fireplace and the room has always been used by the library trustees. It is also used by the head librarian when necessary.

Oak timbers of the open trusswork in the framework of the building are visible overhead in the center of the building.

The area behind the librarians desk was designed for a capacity of more than 22,000 volumes.

The two ends of the building have gable projections and ornamental chimneys. All of the windows on the front of the library building use leaded glass.

Black slate covers the roof and all coping stones are protected with copper.

All of the rooms except the reference room have four foot high oak paneled wainscoting. In the reference room, it is eight feet high.

The ceiling of the main building is made of oak in panels of herringbone design. Large timbers, trusses and pedines are made from oak veneer.

There are two large rooms in the basement area. One is used as the children’s room, the other is a storage and maintenance area. Other smaller rooms in the basement are used for various functional purposes.

A beautiful stone fountain is located on the south lawn just outside the building. Water ran in it a few years ago and people drank from it. The relief of the statue part of the fountain was copied from another one located in the “Hall of Reliefs” in the Naples Museum. The sculptor was named Waldo Storey and the fountain was presented to the town of Hopedale in 1904. It is made from Carrara marble and was carved in Italy.

A beautiful building serving a most useful end and built largely from local materials. Milford Daily News, date unknown.                                                         


Bancroft Memorial Library, 50 Hopedale Street, was designed in the Romanesque Revival style by C. Howard Walker of the Boston architectural firm Walker & Kimball. The building is constructed of Milford granite trimmed in white ashlar. One story on a raised basement, the library is roughly L-shaped in footprint with a cross-gable roof of slate shingles and two exterior end-wall chimneys. Romanesque Revival detailing includes the wall buttresses, round-arched entry surround, windows deeply recessed in the masonry wall, and rusticated piers at certain window openings. The interior is notable for its oak finishes, particularly the round-arched ceiling trusses and the decorative oak screens dividing principal spaces in the library. Kathy Kelly Broomer, National Register Nomination.  

The Bancroft Memorial Library, located at 50 Hopedale Street, is a fine example of the town’s late 19th century institutional development. A Romanesque Revival municipal building, it was designed in 1898 by C. Howard Walker of the Boston architectural firm of Walker and Kimball. The Merton Chapel at Oxford University served as the inspiration. The name of the contractor is not known.

Construction occurred during a local building boom, following Hopedale’s incorporation in 1886 and its expansion as a planned company town under the direction of the Draper Company. Joseph Bubier Bancroft, vice-president of the company, had the library built in 1898. His historic residence occupies the adjacent lot. Mr. Bancroft (1821 – 1909) had the building constructed as a tribute to his wife, Sylvia Willard Thwing Bancroft. She died on April 20, 1898, prior to completion. The building was lovingly dedicated in her memory. Mr. Bancroft then transferred ownership to the Town of Hopedale for one dollar.

Constructed of Milford granite trimmed with white ashlar, the library is a one story building on a raised basement. The roof has slate shingles and copper flashing; gutters and downspouts are also copper. The building is roughly L-shaped; the side-gabled block has exterior end-wall chimneys, faced in granite at either end. A gabled porch, one bay wide and two bays deep, provides a covered entrance canopy. The original wood door survives. A secondary entrance is located on the southwest elevation. This entrance was recently modified for barrier-free accessibility.

Inside, the library’s original plan and finishes are well-preserved. The main decorative features of the interior is the system of oak round-arched ceiling trusses, carried over three of the library’s public spaces –  the lobby, reading room, and reference room. Other original features include moldings, windows, and two fireplaces, The lobby is flanked by the reference room on the left and the reading room on the right. Smaller rooms across the front are an archive room, a work station, and a trustees’ meeting room. Directly across from the entry is the original, semi-circular, oak circulation desk. In the rear are the book stacks, an office, and a stair hall and elevator to the ground floor. The ground floor houses the children’s library, a meeting room, storage, and restroom facilities.

On the southeast lawn is a large marble drinking fountain surmounted by the Statue of Hope. Waldo Storey sculpted the Carrara marble piece. It was presented to Hopedale on November 12, 1904, by Susan Preston Draper, wife of William Franklin Draper, Ambassador to Italy, and was dedicated in 1905. It consists of a marble plaza reached by three steps, an elaborately carved fountain with an upper basin and a lower one with three dolphins. On a pedestal is a figure of Hope, with overflowing cornucopias at her feet. Extending from both sides is a curved excedra and benches. The ends are rectangular piers with a finial and eagle on the inside edge.

 Both the library and the fountain were given to Hopedale residents when the philanthropy of prominent citizens manifested itself in a number of important institutional buildings and public works. The beautiful Bancroft Memorial Library and the glorious Statue of Hope Fountain were listed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 12, 1999. At present, it is the only one in town to have received this distinction.

[The Hopedale National Register District was added to the National Register in 2003.]  All information was taken from the National Register nomination for the Bancroft Memorial Library.

 Kathleen Kelly Broomer, Preservationist, completed the nomination. Elaine Malloy, librarian, compiled it in the above format.

Mr. Edward L. Osgood, Chairman of the Committee,

Dear Sir: –
It gives me great pleasure to hand you with this letter, the deed which conveys to the Town of Hopedale, “The Bancroft Memorial Library.” Also enclosed you will find the policy which provides for the insurance until April 18, 1902.

In planning it and in watching it progress toward completion, I have taken the keenest enjoyment and have been helped and encouraged throughout the work by my entire family. I believe you will find it complete in every detail and well adapted to  the purpose for which it is intended and it is with the greatest satisfaction that I now present it to the Town.

I am sure that for many, many years to come it will be a source of pleasure and profit to the people of this Town and will inspire in them and keep also the noble and beautiful characteristics which found such perfect expression in the life of the beloved and honored woman in whose memory this Library Building
has been erected.

                                                                                                     Faithfully yours,
                                                                                                     Joseph B. Bancroft

Mr. J.B. Bancroft,

Dear Sir: –
As chairman of the committee selected by the Town for the purpose, it is my pleasant duty to receive from you your letter, the insurance policy and the deed conveying to the Town of Hopedale The Bancroft Memorial Library which you have so generously had built and now present to the Town. In accepting it, we can but appreciate and applaud the tender sentiment that inspired you to erect it, and we are convinced that it will stand as a lasting memorial to the memory of the lovely and loving woman in whose honor it was planned, and also as a constant reminder of the public spirit, generosity and probity of character of the one who has had it constructed.

We must express our great satisfaction that it has given you pleasure in watching its inception, growth and completion, and that all the members of your family have shared your pleasure.

As a Town, we must congratulate ourselves on being the recipient of such a noble public building, adding to the beauty as well as to the usefulness of the village we love so much.

It should be, it will be the constant aim of the Town and the Trustees to see to it that the shelves and tables within shall hold such works as are fitting and in keeping with the beautiful exterior, always making for high ideals and moral teachings.

Again thanking you in behalf of the Town, we remain,
                                                                                                   Yours respectfully,
                                                                                                        E. L. Osgood
                                                                                                        Frank H. French
                                                                                                        Anna M. Bancroft
                                                                                                        Edwin A. Darling
                                                                                                        Lewis B. Gaskill
                                                                                                       John M. French

Library History from Annual Reports and Trustees Minutes

 South Hopedale Branch Library

Mysterious device in library entryway            Now and Then at the Library          

The Statue of Hope

 List of Hopedale Community items on microfilm (from originals that are in the library safe)

 Hopedale history collection (Milford Journal article from 1916 on what the library had collected to that point.)

 Memories of children’s librarian, Marjorie Hattersley

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