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MBLC Celebrates 125 Years


Great Chelsea Fire of 1908

Aftermath of the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908 (details below).1

The annual report covering 1908 wrote about the costly devastation left in the wake of the Great Chelsea Fire:

"The great fire of April 12, 1908... wiped out nearly one-quarter of the city, destroyed the fine Fitz library building, which, with its attractive grounds, was one of the features of Chelsea in which the citizens justly took most pride."2

The 711 books that were in circulation to people in the sections of Chelsea not impacted by the fire were placed in a makeshift reading room at the high school. Help of a more permanent nature was offered right away:

"The Board of Control, which superseded the former city government soon after the conflagration, accepted the offer of Andrew Carnegie to give $50,000 for a new library building on condition that the city should furnish the site and appropriate not less than $5,000 a year for maintenance, and further, that the $20,000 insurance upon the old library should be applied to the purchase of new books."2

Library programs for young readers:
In brighter news, the annual report included notes on the success of summer reading lists for primary school-age students and the innovative "children's hour."2 Summer programs and storytimes continue to be very popular with families today, driving tons of visits to libraries throughout the state.

What else happened in 1908?

  • 89-year-old Julia Ward Howe became the first woman elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.3
  • The Christian Science Monitor, still headquartered on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, released its first issue on November 25.4

1. Digital Commonwealth [link].
2. Nineteenth Report of the Free Public Library Commission of Massachusetts, 1909.
3. [link].
4. The Christian Science Monitor - Wikipedia entry [link].