The site for the Hopkinton Town Library (and later the Slusser Senior Center) was the former Houston farm in Contoocook, NH. When Mr. Houston offered his 62-acre dairy farm, adjacent to the village center, to the town in the mid 1990s there was some resistance—mostly because there was no concrete plan in place on how to use the land. It took some vision on the part of the select board to invest in this parcel that was destined to become the home of several well-used town facilities.
The rural setting allowed for nearly panoramic views of the old farm and Victorian barn, which gave rise to an organizing principle that our firm has tried to employ whenever possible in library design: People on the perimeter in the natural light—books in the dim center. A central cupola, which was a motif we used again at the Plaistow Public Library, introduced daylight at the very core.
Because public meetings and activities would sometimes use the space after hours, we arranged long wings that ended with meeting space and support facilities (kitchen, bathrooms). A lockable door separated these spaces from the rest of the collection.
The 10,000 square foot building program also needed to be expandable for future growth, so we left space to extend the two main wings, with a contingency plan to weatherize one or both of the screened porches in the future. As it turned out, the screened porches were one of the most popular features of the library (along with the fireplace), and it seems highly unlikely that they will ever be sealed up.
Though our predecessor firm, Sheerr and McCrystal, had designed several other libraries, the success of the Hopkinton Town Library proved to be a turning point both for the firm and for the design of rural libraries in our area. Eric had joined the firm just prior to the start of this project, and, two years later, it was one of the last in founder Clinton Sheerr’s life.
Our clients tell us that this design is the standard by which they judge town libraries, and its influence has echoed on through the years of our practice. Of course, in full disclosure, we have to admit that our team was inspired by the Shelburne Farm in Vermont. Is there nothing new under the sun?
Principal, SMP Architecture