Newburyport Public Library is a community hub that inspires and empowers all to access knowledge, culture and social connections.
In 1851, a general law permitting Commonwealth towns to establish and maintain public libraries through municipal taxation was passed. Newburyport was one of the first ten communities in Massachusetts to establish a public library. The Newburyport Public Library was founded in 1854, and opened to the public in 1855 in what is now the office of the City Treasurer in City Hall. The library opened with 5,688 volumes on its shelves.
To provide more space for the expanding library, eight local subscribers purchased the Tracy Mansion on State Street and conveyed the property to the city to be used in perpetuity as a public library. The Library relocated to the Tracy Mansion in 1865 and opened to the public there on January 1, 1866. This historic brick building was built in 1771 for Nathaniel Tracy, a wealthy local merchant and ship owner. Nathaniel Tracy was an ardent patriot and a successful privateer during the Revolutionary War. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Aaron Burr, and General Lafayette all were entertained in the Tracy Mansion. Tracy lost his fortune after the war and was forced to sell his assets, including his home. Before its transition to a public library, the Tracy Mansion was used as a hotel, a bowling saloon, and a dental office.
In 1870, one of the first public newspaper reading rooms in the United States was established by the Newburyport Public Library. A two–story addition, the Simpson Annex, was constructed in 1881. The Library’s exterior and portions of the interior were renovated in the Victorian style during the 1880’s.
20th Century and Beyond
In 1900, the stacks were opened, allowing patrons to browse and retrieve books independently. The 1920s brought the creation of a separate Reference Department and a Children’s Room. The Friends of the Newburyport Public Library organization was founded in 1939 and is an important support to the Library today. The 1968 membership in the state’s fledgling regional library system was a precursor to the Library’s current membership in the Massachusetts Library System (MLS). Public computers were introduced in 1985 and the Library became an active member of the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium.
By the early 1990’s the need for a larger and improved facility became evident. After a successful community effort, the Library moved forward with a $6.8m building project to renovate and expand the Tracy Mansion. In October 1999, the Library moved to a temporary location, the Anvil Rock Farm in the industrial park, providing library services during construction. With great anticipation, the newly renovated and expanded facility at 94 State Street reopened on May 6, 2001. The Newburyport Public Library continues in its long and historic tradition of providing a wide range of library services to the community.