Hanover (Etna) Town Library.

Site: N11-75. Municipality: Hanover, NH. Location: 130 Etna Road, Etna. Site Type: Library. UTMs: (Zone 18) E: 724177. N: 4841510

National Register Nomination Information:


The Hanover Town Library, commonly referred to as the "Etna Library" because of the village within Hanover where the property is located, is a small but well detailed early twentieth-century rural library building. Not only is the building in excellent condition, but it is almost completely unaltered from the time when it was originally constructed in 1905. Likewise, both the site and the overall setting of the property are little altered, still retaining the integrity and feel of a small rural village.

Sitting on a grassy knoll immediately to the east of Etna Road, the library building is visually an integral part of the Etna Village area although it is surrounded on three sides by a small hillside family farm. In fact, the 50' x 80' parcel that the building occupies was originally a part of the adjacent farm, having been subdivided in 1903, in anticipation of constructing a future town library facility.

The single story brick building measures 33'-10" wide by 27'-10" deep, not including the small 10'-6" x 5'-6" extension from the rear wall that was originally constructed as a vault for town documents and records. The front entrance into the building is identified and protected by a small 5'-6" x 9'-0" classical portico.

The 12/10 pitch roof is framed in a hip configuration with a combination of wood trusses and rafters, and covered with slate shingles. The exterior walls are of brick construction, 8" thick by 12 feet high, laid in running or stretcher bond. Native rough dressed granite is used for windows and the rear door opening lintels and window sills. Also, the same granite is used as the facing on the exposed areas of the foundations, but, the below grade portions are of a simpler rubble stone.

The windows are tall, narrow, wood double hung units set into the building envelope in pairs with a wide center mullion, and a small fixed single pane unit is located directly above the operable sash, all quite typical for the period of this type of structure. Recently aluminum combination storm/screen units have been added, however, the work was done in a very neat fashion.

The front doorway assembly is a typical period design of wood construction with sidelights, recessed into the building approximately 2 ½ feet. The masonry of the exterior wall is carried above the entrance opening by a shallow segmental arch.

As mentioned earlier, a small portico of simple classical design protrudes from the front face of the building, giving protection and definition to the front entrance. Wood columns of the tuscan order, resting on a dressed granite base, support a pleasantly proportioned entablature and cornice also of wood construction.

With the exception of a present day small toilet room that was originally constructed as a vault, the interior consists of one large reading room. The walls are lath and plaster, applied over a 2"x 4"stud frame constructed inside the exterior brick walls. Because a 2" air space was provided for between the wood and masonry wall construction, for reason of maintaining a dry and easily heated interior environment, the total exterior wall thickness is 14". The beaded matched board ceiling is varnished hazelwood as is all of the interior trim and book shelving.

Since the building's construction in 1905, it has been electrified (gas chandeliers first illuminating its interior), and an oil-fired, ducted, hot air furnace in the basement has replaced the original wood or coal stove located on the main floor. However, other than these changes and the alterations previously noted herein, the library building remains almost exactly as designed and constructed eighty-nine years ago. Likewise, other than the paved highway in front of the building and the similarly paved driveway immediately to the south leading to the adjacent grouping of farm buildings, the setting remains unchanged from what is visible in photographs of the library taken shortly after its construction.

Architecturally, this building is a very good period example of a building type from the turn of the century, representing an era of tremendous growth, development and interest in small community libraries. Similar buildings can be found within surrounding towns, most notably Norwich, Vermont, whose small brick facility is of almost the same date of construction. In addition to Hanover's building being a fine example, is the fact that it has now survived the years, escaping serious alteration or destruction, so that it can now be studied and enjoyed in its original state and setting.


The Hanover Town Library is eligible for the National Register under criterion A for education. It is historically significant as the Town's first library building constructed for that purpose, and which continues to serve the village of Etna in that capacity. It was built, and continues to be owned and staged by the Town of Hanover. The library possesses integrity of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association for the period 1905-1946, the date of construction to the 50-year cut off date.

With the exception of Dartmouth College's early book collections, the first Town library, available to the community at large, was not located within the Hanover Village area, as one might initially expect, but rather out in present day Etna, or Mill Village as it was known prior to 1884. However, on second thought, it is the Etna and Hanover Center area that is situated far more towards the Town's geographical center, and it was also the location of the Town's government and annual meeting until well into this century.

The first library was established on June 12, 1801 and apparently had a reasonably large collection of books for that time. Throughout the nineteenth century the library went through several incorporations as well as various locations around the Etna area. However, it was at the March 1898 Town Meeting that "The Hanover Free Library" was established with the election of three library trustees, and the books from the previous efforts at establishing and maintaining a public library were given over to their custody.

In establishing this new library, the Town was able to take advantage of grant monies available thru the New Hampshire Library Act of 1891. As a result, by the dawn of this century, the book collection had grown substantially and a critical housing problem was making itself apparent.

Therefore, at the annual March, 1905 Town Meeting, it was voted to raise an additional $600.00, to be combined with the previous appropriations made by the Selectmen and various donations of the citizenry, for the construction of a new brick library building. A second vote was taken to instruct the library trustees to build a fireproof vault, in connection with the new building, for the proper storage and preservation of Town documents.

Robert E. Fletcher, a noted professor of engineering at Dartmouth's Thayer School, was on the library's board of trustees and drew the architectural plans for the building. The facility's 50' x 80' building lot had been purchased two years earlier in 1903 for fifty dollars, and construction was completed by the end of the 1905 year. In an effort to save money on an already tight budget, the trustees elected to act as their own general contractor, coordinating and superintending the work themselves. When the new facility was finally completed, the total cost, including the vault, stood at $2,822.11. The following year, a glowing and detailed report of its construction appeared within the pages of the 1906 Town Report.

Since the date of the building's completion, the building has been used and enjoyed by many as a small local community library. However, other than some electrical and heating equipment updating, and the addition of a small toilet/lavatory installed within the old vault area, the building remains vertically unaltered and almost frozen in time.


" Various Town of Hanover Annual Town Reports, from the period 1898 to 1906.

" A history of the Town of Hanover, N.H.; by John King Lord; The Dartmouth Press; 1928.

" Hanover, New Hampshire, A Bicentennial Book; Essays in Celebration of the Town's 200th Anniversary; Edited by Francis Lane Childs; Hanover, 1961.

FORM PREPARED BY: Frank J. Barrett, Jr., Town of Hanover Code Administrator, Town of Hanover, Municipal Building 41 South Main Street, P.O. Box 483, Hanover, NH 03755, (603) 643-0711, March 1, 1996.

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