Mr. Nichols and the Library in Center Harbor. A native of Meredith, New Hampshire, James Edwin Nichols (1845-1914) found success with business ventures in Boston and New York. As a managing partner Austin-Nichols (NYC), he supplied canned goods to small retail grocers across the Northeast and Midwest. In 1909, Nichols offered to build and endow a library for Center Harbor as a memorial to his parents. The holdings of the Center Harbor Library Association (1889), a private collection, became the core of the new Nichols Library. In accordance with his wishes, the Library was to be ‘free and open to all,’ which it remains to this day.
An Historic Building. The Nichols Memorial Library has been judged “one of the finest classical library buildings in the state.” It was designed by Charles Brigham and built by Laconia contractor T. J. Guay. The Library was dedicated on June 18, 1910, the structure is “strikingly well preserved. ” Visitors enter the Library through a vestibule into a large double reading room. Beyond the Librarian’s desk, is the stacks room, which features a curved rear wall, over which the ceiling forms a graceful barrel vault.
About the Furnishings. The two fireplaces contain interesting tile work. “The Pines,” an eight-tile frieze, was designed by Addison Le Boutillier for the Grueby Faience Company of Boston (ca. 1906). The whimsical Mother Goose tiles were produced by the American Encaustic Company of Zanesville. The Seth Thomas pendulum clock dates from 1876. The Mosler safe, originally for use by the Selectmen, now contains historic records of the Library. The animal heads in the main room were hunted by Mr. Nichols.
The Collection. The Center Harbor Library Association and the Irving Bank of New york contributed books to the new library. A printed catalog in 1911 listed a collection of 2400 items on hand. A small selection from the original collection is still held by the Library. Today the collection contains more than 13,000 items, which includes printed materials, recorded books and other media items. The library automated its collection in 2001. Three public computer workstations provide access to office work software and the Internet.
Historic landmark. The Nichols Library is one of 13 structures which comprise the Village Historic District, of Center Harbor, which is listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Link here for a complete list of our historic structures.