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Stunning stonework at Batavia’s Richmond Memorial Library

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 November 2014 at 12:00 am

Our Sandstone Heritage

Photos by Tom Rivers

The Richmond Memorial Library opened in April 1889 on Ross Street in Batavia. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The building features outstanding stone carvings, including this face.

BATAVIA – The initial design for the Richmond Memorial Library wasn’t good enough for Mary Richmond, wife of the late Dean Richmond. In 1887, she announced a plan to pay for a new public library in Batavia as a memorial to her son, Dean Richmond Jr.

She offered to pay $9,000 for the project. After seeing the design, she wanted more for the community and upped the contribution to $24,000. The new library opened in April 1889. Richmond spared no expense in what many consider one of Batavia’s finest public buildings.

The site utilizes gray Medina sandstone and red sandstone from Albion. It was built in a Richardson Romanesque style, with rounded windows and arches.

Dean Richmond made a fortune in the railroad industry. When he died his estate was valued at $1.5 million. His wife, known for her charity and business acumen, expanded the value of the Richmond estate to $6 million.

Her husband was an advocate for the public education system. The new library was donated to the school district and utilized leading architects and the finest building materials around.

The stone workers created this elaborate and ornamental sign out of stone. The library name is entwined in a leafy vine.

Henry H. Richardson designed several libraries in the Boston area. The Batavia library emulates the style of many of the Richardson libraries. Richardson also was a big fan of Medina sandstone, using it in the State Capitol building in Albany and the Richardson Olmsted Complex, originally the Buffalo Psychiatric Center.

For more on the history of the Batavia library, click here.

The faces carved in stone have endured 125 years since the library opened in 1889.

Orleans Hub in June featured another public library made of Medina sandstone. The James Prendergast Library has been an iconic structure in the city of Jamestown since it opened in 1891, two years after the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia.

Here is a picture of the Jamestown library, which also has many Romanesque features with arches and rounded windows.