700 Boylston Street, Copley Square, Boston, MA 02116
Founded in 1848, by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library (BPL) was the first large free municipal library in the United States. Amenities include a restaurant and café, a peaceful inner courtyard, several comfortable and wifi accessible inviting reading areas.
Among the better known treasures of the Central Library in Copley Square are:
Acknowledged by many to be architecturally one of the most important rooms in the world, Bates Hall features a majestic barrel-arched ceiling enclosed by half domes on each end, English oak bookcases, busts of eminent authors and Bostonians, and a richly carved limestone balcony. The hall, located on the second floor of the McKim building, is named in honor of Joshua Bates, a London merchant banker born in Weymouth, MA, who in 1852 gave the Boston Public Library $50,000 for the purchase of books.
The Chavannes Gallery
Painted by the renowned French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, exquisite murals adorn the walls of the McKim building’s grand staircase and second floor gallery. The central mural depicts "The Muses of Inspiration Hail the Spirit of Light." Eight stairway murals representing the main disciplines of poetry, philosophy, and science complete this allegorical cycle.
The Abbey Room
Murals titled the "Quest of the Holy Grail," by American artist, Edwin Austin Abbey, grace the walls of the Abbey Room on the second floor of the McKim building. The murals are composed of a series of 15 panels featuring 150 life-sized figures illustrating the Arthurian legend. The room also features a beautiful fireplace of French rouge antique marble, dark oak wainscoting, and a beamed ceiling modeled after one in the library of the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
The Sargent Gallery
Located on the 3rd floor are spectacular murals painted by John Singer Sargent. The theme of this unusual series is the development of world religions. Sargent considered this effort to be his most important work. Distinctly different from his well-known portraits of distinguished Americans and Europeans and his delicate landscapes, Sargent painted in the style of Italian Renaissance frescos by incorporating the architectural detail of the building into the work.
The library offers tours highlighting the architecture of Charles Follen McKim and Philip Johnson, as well as the many works of famed sculptors and painters. The tours last about an hour and are given by volunteer guides. For a list of currently scheduled tours click here.