During my frequent trips to the Waltham Public Library, I noticed a plaque with the name Francis Buttrick on a wall of the brick building. Though I could safely assume that Francis Buttrick was a benefactor of the library, I was curious to learn more about him and the history of the building.

Francis Buttrick came to Waltham in 1838 as a carpenter, bought a lumberyard in 1857 and eventually made a fortune in real estate. In 1894, he left a $60,000 bequest for a new library, though legal issues prevented use of the money until 1914, when the sum had increased to $123,731 from interest!

Boston architectural firm Loring and Leland designed the building in the Colonial Revival style. The construction broke ground on October 23, 1914, on Main Street, and was completed the following year when it opened to the public on December 13, 1915.

Renovations and modern additions have updated the building since then, but its amazing history still symbolizes the American Dream: a modest carpenter’s rise to fortune and his legacy to give back to the community, which has enabled access to free books and education that patrons—including me!—still benefit from today.

Image credit: Tim Pierce