Iâ€™m always amazed by things that come in the mail unsolicited. Of course you always get the interest-free loan offers, the low-cost life insurance, and opportunities to buy George Foreman grills. But once in a while something so unexpected and interesting is sent that you need to share it.
I recently received a large manila envelope from the Currier Art Museum which contained a paper entitled Edward Lippincott Tilton: A Monograph on his Architecture Practice. Who was Edward Tilton? Well, his story is one in which Meadville Public Library plays a part.
Edward Tilton was a renowned architect during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A specialist in designing libraries, Tilton started his career with McKimm, Mead & White (considered one of the most influential American architectural firms) and worked on the Boston Public Library. He designed more than 100 libraries, many of them funded by the Carnegie Foundation. He also designed the immigration station that opened at Ellis Island in 1892.
Here in Meadville, we are blessed with a number of Tilton designs: the Tippie Alumni Center at Allegheny College; the old Post Office building on Chestnut Street and Meadville Public Library.
Prior to Tilton, libraries were designed like banks, with books stored away from the public and librarians seated behind what looked like teller windows. Patrons browsed through the card catalog, made selections and wrote their requests on a slip of paper. A librarian retrieved the books and if he/she thought a particular request was inappropriate for the patron, a more â€œsuitableâ€ book was substituted.
Tiltonâ€™s designs for libraries were considered revolutionary at the time. He was a pioneer in using the â€œOpen Planâ€ which placed the most popular books on open shelves on the main floor. The design allowed patrons to browse freely, without help (or hindrance) from the librarian.
Tiltonâ€™s style usually included an exterior facade dominated by a series of arches and classic moldings, capped with a hip roof composed of tile. Most of these elements are found in our library building.
In my opinion, the real genius of Tilton was in creating a building that could be adapted and changed without altering its appearance. With some remodeling and adjustments, we have been able to accommodate our growing needs and include the latest technology, yet maintain the integrity of the design.
So it is amazing what can be learned though unsolicited mail. This newsletter is an example. We are asking you to consider giving to the Libraryâ€™s 40th Annual Patron Drive. Our predecessors in Meadville had the vision to hire a great architect to build a great library for their community. You can continue that tradition by donating to this fund drive. Any contribution is welcome.