About This Location
Bates Hall stands as a venerable sanctum of knowledge within the grand architectural masterpiece known as the McKim Building of the Boston Public Library. This opulent library, a testament to Boston's commitment to learning and culture, was constructed under the visionary guidance of architect Charles Follen McKim between 1888 and 1895. Its name honors the very first significant benefactor of the institution, Joshua Bates, who had a profound belief in the transformative power of a public library.
Joshua Bates's generous contribution was pivotal to the library's early years. Having grown up without access to a public library himself, he recognized the immense value such an institution could bring to society. His extraordinary offer was to fund the acquisition of books needed to stock the library even before it officially opened its doors in 1852. Bates, guided by his vision of a library as "an ornament to the City," made three specific stipulations for his gift: that the new library should be capable of accommodating at least 150 people, that it be "free to everybody," and that it should serve as a beacon of knowledge and culture for all.
Bates Hall, a splendid space within the library, is a testament to this vision. It extends the entire length of the McKim Building, running parallel to Dartmouth Street. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by an awe-inspiring sight: a soaring 50-foot-high barrel vault ceiling. The room is adorned with exquisite English oak bookcases and tables, creating an atmosphere that is at once majestic and inviting. This architectural marvel has not only preserved Joshua Bates's legacy but also become a beloved destination for scholars, students, and city residents alike, drawn by its serene ambiance and the promise of intellectual exploration.
The Boston Public Library, with its storied history and architectural grandeur, has been duly recognized for its cultural and historical significance. It was accorded a place of honor on the National Register of Historic Places, a prestigious list of the nation's cherished landmarks, on May 6, 1973. This designation, with reference number 73000317, underscores the library's enduring role as a custodian of knowledge, a sanctuary of learning, and a beacon of enlightenment within the heart of Boston.