Kittery in York County, Maine — The American Northeast (New England)
Historic Rice Public Library
Arabella Rice, youngest of four daughters born to Capt. Robert Rice and wife Charlotte, died 1872
Rice Public Library opened on 5 November 1888. The institution’s first trustees included former New Hampshire Gov. Ichabod Goodwin, who was married to Arabella’s cousin Sarah Parker Rice. Their mansion is one of the celebrated landmarks of Portsmouth’s Strawberry Banke.
Arabella remains something of a mystery today. Despite her affluence and prominence as one of the area’s wealthiest residents, there are no known portraits or photographs of this patroness.
Her initials “AR” can still be seen as one approaches the building from Wentworth Street, elegantly carved within a panel to the left of the archway high over the main entrance. They are also inscribed along the Italian marble fireplace on the first floor inside the library.
The year “1888” is etched into the front of the building as well, up above the grand second-floor balcony.
Prior to this new building, the library was housed within a single room in what is now Wallingford Square.
In its early days, Rice Public Library held separate reading rooms for ladies and gentlemen. The second floor of the building served as a meeting place for Civil War veterans from the local Grand Army of the Republic chapter.
In 1979, the landmark structure was added to the National Register of Historic
The beautiful gardens surrounding the library were designed by Olmstead Associates of Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1979. The Harborside Garden Club donated the funds for the plans, plants and landscaping, and maintained the gardens for many years.
Over time, the Rice building became too cramped for its growing collections. The former Southern York County District Courthouse, located diagonally across the street, was purchased in 1988 and renovated into the Taylor Building annex. The judge’s bench was converted into the circulation desk, and the judicial chambers became the staff room. The Taylor Building, named for local physician and former library trustee Paul Taylor, opened in October 1990.
In 1991, longtime patron Sarah Almyra Roberts left the library more than $300,000 in her will, which funded a major overhaul of the Rice building. The renovation included the removal of a false overhead which had been installed to conserve energy, revealing the library’s exquisite ceiling.
The second-story room was dedicated in Roberts’ memory, and used for children’s programming and youth collections. A plaque was erected in her honor
The Kay Howells Room, dedicated in memory of Katherine F. Howells, is located in the former basement of the Rice structure. It was converted into the periodical room, and used as a meeting space for the library’s board of directors and the Friends of Rice Public Library.
On 24, August 2013, Rice Public Library celebrated its 125th anniversary by hosting a neighborhood party, complete with the 18th-century rolling hoop games, antique cars and bicycles, and Victorian-era costumes. Many decades after her death, Arabella’s generosity continues to benefit the citizens of her father’s native town.
This marker, funded in memory of Eunice Sillsby by her father and friends, was installed in June 2016.
Text prepared by D. Allan Kerr
Erected 2016 by Town of Kittery, Maine (in memory of Eunice Sillsby).
Location. 43° 5.215′ N, 70° 44.561′ W. Marker is in Kittery, Maine, in York County. Marker is on Wentworth Street (Maine Route 103) 0.1 miles north of Traip Street, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is located directly in front of the subject library. Marker is at or near this postal address: 8 Wentworth Street, Kittery ME 03904, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. David Glasgow Farragut (approx. 0.4 miles away); Shipyard Mall (approx. 0.4 miles away); Sloop Ranger Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Building 86 (approx. 0.4 miles away); USMC Memorial Marker (approx. 0.4 miles away); New Park [New Shipyard Mall] (approx. 0.4 miles away); Maine Soldiers and Sailors Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Province of Maine Marker (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Kittery.
More about this marker. Marker is new (as of 2016) and in excellent condition.
Also see . . .
1. Rice Public Library History.
Rice Public Library was founded by Arabella Rice, the youngest of four daughters born to Capt. Robert Rice and wife Charlotte, and the only one to outlive her parents. Although a lifelong resident of Portsmouth, when Arabella died in 1872 her will included bequests totaling $30,000 to honor "the wish of my beloved father to give a sum of money for educational purposes to the inhabitants of his native town of Kittery.” (Submitted on August 14, 2017, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
2. The original funding for Kittery, Maine’s town library derived from a fortune earned from the sea.
Arabella was once described by the late local historian Dorothy Vaughan as “just a very quiet soul who lived a very (Submitted on August 14, 2017, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
3. Kittery, Maine.
Kittery is the southern most town in Maine. The Isles of Shoals, within the towns boundary but out to sea, are the southern most points of land at just a little less than 43 degrees north latitude. (Submitted on August 14, 2017, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
Categories. • Architecture • Arts, Letters, Music • Charity & Public Work • Women •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 15, 2017. This page originally submitted on August 14, 2017, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 57 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 14, 2017, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.