Edgar Allan Poe was dumped here ~ The Providence Athenaeum

Athena is the Greek Goddess of wisdom, fertility, the useful arts, and warfare.  The Roman Emperor Hadrian built the first Athenaeum as a sanctuary for the goddess where scholars, philosophers, orators and poets would gather to discuss their work.   Today they are independent libraries, supported by members, sponsors, and donors.  Athenaeums have memberships, but do not require them to access a majority of their area that is free to the public.  The Providence Athenaeum came to be in 1836, after a previous Providence Athenaeum and Providence Library could not agree on terms for a merger.  I found it as I do most of my exploratory finds, searching old maps, google earth, and off-beat websites for the explorers of today.

The entry to the Athenaeum. It has a Sherlock Holms/theatrical feel to it.

I picture two high-hat English Chaps sitting here, drinking tea and discussing politics. “Huff huff, and all that gruff!”

In 1872 the Athenaeum hired its first female assistant librarian, Mary Angell. She started cataloging the books long before the Dewy Decimal System existed. Many of the original cards made by her are still here.

There are over 56,000 volumes within these walls.

It has a hodgepodge of furniture that’s eclectically cool.

You will wander through this place like a maze. Some shelves have walkways on both sides, some only one. There are twists and turns everywhere.

Sadly, there are only 13 library Athenaeums left in the United States.

Many items within the Athenaeum have historic significance. Read the placard located on top of this desk in the image below.

Seeing as the Athenaeum is the Matriarch of Providence, it is only fitting that items of historical significance be lodged within its walls.

A replica of the blueprints are located on the second floor for visitor perusal.

Two narrow staircases are the only way to get to the second floor. I don’t think it would pass as handicap accessible. I guess historical value has its privileges.

Foosteps of many notables have been heard here. Edgar Allan Poe visited here in September of 1848. At the time he was courting the wealthy Rhode Island widow, Sarah Helen Whitman. She ended up rejecting him after receiving a note that he had not maintained his sobriety.

The floor creaks and groans with every step you take. I wonder where H.P. Lovecraft’s favorite place to sit and read was.

Private collections and donations have the Athenaeum full of a variety of rare and priceless books. Imaging looking through a fifteenth century monk’s book written in Gothic bookhand. Rare books are available by appointment only, and time is limited.

H.P. Lovecraft, the author of many dark stories, was not a member, but he did frequent the Athenaeum due to it’s proximity to his home less than a block away.

The Athenaeum has expanded twice. Once in 1941, and again in 1979.


Linda Milks April 23, 2017 - 2:28 am

What an amazing library. Definitely worth a long visit just to wander around.

focusedtraveler April 26, 2017 - 6:04 pm

It really is Linda. So small, but it has so much going on inside.


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