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The Patten Free Library

Text by Noah Lapointe, Austin Lewis, Kyle Perry, and Shadow Stephens
7th grade students at Bath Middle School.
Images from the Patten Free Library.

The Patten Free Library, located at 33 Summer Street in Bath, Maine, is architecturally unique. It was designed by architect George Harding, in a Richarsonian Romanesque style. There is a long history of the library's building which includes two significant expansions.

The construction of the library began in 1889; it was first opened to the public in 1891. It was funded by Galen C. Moses, who donated $10,000 to the library. He was a trustee for the library, starting and over-viewing all construction.

There were two additions built to the library. The 1962 addition was built to house a children's room, a youth room, a lobby and a lecture hall. Mildred C. Wright donated $150,000 to the library for its construction. The second addition was built built in 1998.

Also, there is a fountain in the southwest corner of the park called The Spirit of the Sea. But what was there beforehand? An earlier fountain, called Stork Fountain, was destroyed in 1952. It was severely damaged and rendered unrepairable when it fell into the ice pond in the park. It was soon replaced with the Spirit of the Sea.

An important person connected to the Patten Free Library is Galen Clapp Moses. He contributed the most money to the library, funding more than any other contributer. He also watched over construction of the library. He was a financial genius that many people relied upon for help when constructing the library. Sadly enough, this great man died at age 79.

Another person who did great things for the library was Mildred Wright. It was said to have doubled in size due to the generous gifts of Mildred Wright. On the Patten Free Library's own website, the editor writes, “Mildred C. Wright donated $150,000 for the construction of a new wing to house a children's room, a youth room, a lobby and a lecture hall. The Davenport Fund donated money for a new level of stacks. The new wing was constructed in a style harmonious to the original building and promoted heavier use of the library after its opening in 1962. The lecture room became the frequent site of talks and exhibits on art and literature, and the youth room encouraged students to get together to study.”

The men that the library is named after are very important to the history as well. George F. Patten and John Patten were the largest shareholders. They held 16 out of 100 shares, when 86 other members went to buy shares. Each share, at the time, cost $5.00. They were also the ones who bought Governor King's library when he died. They started the library as a reading room in the downtown area before the park became the home of the Patten Free Library.

Another person to mention in this article is the creator of the statue in the park, The Spirit of the Sea. This statue was built by William Zorach. He has an international reputation, and a daughter named Dahlov Ipcar who is an artist that made the children's room mural.

Center Street, Bath, ca. 1925
Center Street, Bath, ca. 1925
Patten Free Library

This library also has many facts that relate to history, because it's over 110 years old. It has had time to grow and gain stories of its own. At the end of WWII the library had over 40,000 volumes of books. This may sound like a lot now, but even before that, they had to meet certain standards before they were kept, meaning some books didn't even get put into that 40,000. Now it is free standing as the only library in Bath. In 1962 the children's room was constructed. That very quickly, and extremely easily, amassed to 2,000 books. It cost about 20,000 dollars just for that room.That was more than it cost to make the original building. It is now used almost as much as the rest of the library.

The library is funded by member communities including Bath, West Bath, Arrowsic, Georgetown, Woolwich, and Phippsburg. Residents of those towns have library privileges at no additional cost. Other people pay $40 for a library card each year.

This information about the Patten Free Library in Bath highlights the past and present construction, events, and people who contributed to the importance and history that make it a special and unique part of Bath. We hope that you have enjoyed learning about the Patten Free Library of Bath, Maine.