In 1903, Robert J. Kimball, a Randolph native who became a successful financier in New York City, donated the library bearing his name. The red-brick building, located next door to the Chandler Music Hall on Main Street (VT Route 12), is an impressive monument to Kimball who at age 13 began his career as newsboy and telegrapher for the Vermont Central Railroad.
At the March 1896 town meeting not long before the building was completed, the Randolph Public library was established under the law of 1894. The state sent 134 books, space was "fitted out" over Morton's drug store in the DuBois and Gay block, and the library opened on November 14 with Maud Blanchard as librarian. The following March, the King's Daughters, the Randolph Book Club, and individual donors added to the core collection. In 1898, the Ladies' library Association, an earlier literary group, donated its 1,500 books. The following year, the Sarah Jane Crocker estate provided $3,500 for the library's use. After Kimball offered to give $10,000 to build a library, the town acted swiftly in acquiring the $3,200 property that included the site, a tenement, and a barn. The choice was pleasing to Kimball, for he had lived in the house as a boy. At a special meeting on November 30, the "wide-awake citizens of Randolph"46 accepted the generous proposal.
H.M. Francis & Sons, because of their extensive work in library design, were chosen as architects. After the buildings on the site were removed, Wiley & Foss, contractors who often worked with Francis, built the $17,000 library. Kimball made up the $7,000 difference, which included the architect's $600 fee and the furnishings.
Dedicated on February 24, 1903, the Renaissance Revival building is trimmed with sandstone from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. It has a basement story of Isle La Motte black marble and a slate roof topped by a large copper dome with ornamental finials and cresting. On the front, a brownstone arch and a frieze carved with the library's name are flanked by three long windows on either side.
Beginning with the huge oak doors, the inside is as grand as the outside. A few of the many features similar to libraries of the era include a marble-tiled floor in the vestibule, fluted columns with bronzed Ionic capitals, windows with leaded stained-glass transoms, an ornate brick fireplace, and red-birch woodwork.
Of special interest is the domed ceiling, decorated in the Empire style with wreaths and festoons and interspersed with the names of Longfellow, Emerson, Hawthorne, Webster, Phillips Brooks and Bancroft (possibly George Bancroft, a historian).
The basement, partially converted into a children's room, also includes a physically-accessible rest room and an indoor elevator. This handsome library still serves--as Kimball intended back in 1903--as a pleasant, useful place for the people of Randolph.
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