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[82]

The Rindge gifts.

Ex-Governor William E. Russell.
Until 1887, Cambridge, while distinguished in many ways, had not been specially favored by any large gifts from her citizens for public purposes. She had been conspicuous for her educational institutions, for her many and varied industries, for her sturdy citizenship, and especially for the part she had taken in the struggle for the independence of our country, and later for union and liberty. Intelligence, patriotism, and many other virtues were characteristic of her people, but their wealth was not great, and it had not been devoted to a large extent to distinctly public objects.

The year 1887 marked a new epoch in her history. Then began a period of larger things, of grander municipal life, of greater public spirit in works of philanthropy and benevolence, and of devotion to the charities that ‘soothe and heal and bless.’ The privilege of starting this movement was given to one of her younger sons of ample fortune and of generous impulses. His early life and associations were with Cambridge. His later years, spent elsewhere, had with deep religious spirit been devoted to good works, which broadened his life out into the lives of others. With noble generosity and fine public spirit, he gave largely to the communities where he dwelt, and also richly blessed this city of his birth.

For many years Cambridge had felt the need of a public library that would meet the requirements of the people of a large and growing city. At a meeting of prominent citizens, a committee of ten was appointed to bring the matter to the attention of the people of Cambridge, and to solicit their subscriptions. As mayor and one of this committee, it was my pleasure to make known our wants to one who, although he had not been a citizen of the city during all his life, had always manifested a deep interest in her welfare. His answer, showing [83] his generosity and love for his native city, is given in the following letter:—

Dear Sir,—It would make me happy to give to the city of Cambridge the tract of land bounded by Cambridge, Trowbridge, Broadway and Irving streets, in the city of Cambridge, and to build thereon and give to said city a Public Library building, under the following conditions:—

That on or within said building tablets be placed bearing the following words:—

First: ‘Built in gratitude to God, to his son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Spirit.’

Second: The Ten Commandments, and ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’

Third: ‘Men, women, children, obey these laws. If you do, you will be happy; if you disobey them, sorrow will come upon you.’

Fourth: ‘It is noble to be pure; it is right to be honest; it is necessary to be temperate; it is wise to be industrious; but to know God is best of all.’

Fifth: Words for this tablet to be given hereafter.

It is my wish that a portion of said tract of land be reserved as a playground for children and the young. I ask you to present this communication to the city government of Cambridge, and notify me of its action in relation to it. Should the gift be accepted, I hope to proceed at once with the work.

Yours respectfully,


The tract of land contained nearly 115,000 square feet, and was admirably situated for the purpose.

At a meeting of the city council held June 15, 1887, the following resolutions were adopted:—

Resolved, That the city of Cambridge accepts with profound gratitude the munificent gift of Frederick H. Rindge of land and building for a public library, as stated in his letter of June 14, 1887; that the city accepts it upon the conditions stated in said letter, which it will faithfully and gladly observe as a sacred trust, in accordance with his desire.

Resolved, That in gratefully accepting this gift, the city tenders to Frederick H. Rindge its heartfelt thanks, and desires to express its sense of deep obligation to him, recognizing the Christian faith, generosity, and public spirit that have [84] prompted him to supply a long-felt want by this gift of great and permanent usefulness.

Messrs. Van Brunt & Howe were selected as architects. Ground was broken for the library on May 1, 1888, and on June 29, 1889, the keys of the building were transferred to the city government. The exercises of the dedication were held in the main hall-way of the building, and consisted of music; prayer by Rev. Alexander McKenzie, D. D.; presentation of deed of gift, by Francis J. Parker; acceptance of the same by the mayor, Hon. Henry H. Gilmore; remarks by Hon. S. L. Montague, president of the board of trustees, Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University, Samuel S. Green, librarian of the Worcester Public Library, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

The building is of the Romanesque style of southern France, with exterior of Dedham stone, and dark sandstone trimmings. It has two divisions, one, partially fireproof, devoted to the convenience of the public, with waiting-hall, reading-room, reference library, and memorial and administrative rooms; the other division is for the storage of the books, and is wholly fireproof. The cost of the building was about $100,000.

A few months after his gift of the library building, and before work upon it had begun, Mr. Rindge made other gifts to the city of even larger value and of more importance. They were made by the following letter:—

Dear Sir,—It would make me happy to give to the city of Cambridge, provided no considerable misfortune happens to my property within two years from date, three gifts, which are described herein:—

First, a worthy site for a High School Building in the immediate vicinity of the Public Library Common, provided the following inscription, in metal or stone letters, be placed over the main entrance door: ‘Knowledge is worth seeking; but the wise, while striving to cultivate their minds, strive also to acquire strength of soul and body; then knowledge avails.’ And provided, also, one other condition be complied with. [This condition is that an adjoining lot be purchased and added to the High School lot.]

Second: A City Hall, provided the following inscription, in metal or stone letters, be placed on the outside of said building and over its main entrance door: ‘God has given commandments unto men. From these commandments men have framed laws by which to be [85] governed. It is honorable and praiseworthy faithfully to serve the people by helping to administer these laws. If the laws are not enforced, the people are not well governed.’ And provided also the city of Cambridge give a worthy site for said City Hall.

Third: An Industrial School Building ready for use, together with a site for the same in the immediate neighborhood of the Public Library Common, provided the following inscription, in metal or stone letters, be placed on the outside of said building and over its main entrance door: ‘Work is one of our greatest blessings; every one should have an honest occupation.’ I wish the plain arts of industry to be taught in this school. I wish the school to be especially for boys of average talents, who may in it learn how their arms and hands can earn food, clothing, and shelter for themselves; how, after a while, they can support a family and home; and how the price of these blessings is faithful industry, no bad habits, and wise economy,— which price, by the way, is not dear. I wish also that in it they may become accustomed to being under authority, and be now and then instructed in the laws that govern health and nobility of character. I urge that admittance to said school be given only to strong boys, who will grow up to be able workingmen. Strict obedience to such a rule would tend to make parents careful in the training of their young, as they would know that their boys would be deprived of the benefits of said school unless they were able-bodied. I think the Industrial School would thus graduate many young men who would prove themselves useful citizens. I ask you to present this communication to the city government of Cambridge, and notify me of its action in relation to it. Should the gifts with their conditions be accepted, I hope to proceed at once with the work.

Respectfully yours,


At a special meeting of the city council, held November 12, 1887, the following resolution was unanimously adopted:—

Resolved, that the city of Cambridge accepts with deep gratitude the munificent gifts of Frederick H. Rindge, as expressed in his letter of November 3, 1887, to the mayor. In accepting said gifts it desires to signify to him its profound and lasting appreciation of his great generosity and public spirit.’


Manual Training School.

Messrs. Rotch & Tilden were selected as architects. Ground was broken July 12, 1888, and the building was ready for use on the 1st of October following. The late Harry Ellis had the [86] main charge of the erection and equipment of the school, and later was chosen its superintendent. To his constant, faithful, able service and unselfish devotion to the interests of the school and its pupils was due its great success.

The building is of Romanesque style of architecture, and stands upon a generous lot of land at the corner of Broadway and Irving Street. It consists of a main building 70 by 62 feet, with wings 60 feet square. A description of the work of the students will be given elsewhere in this volume by Mr. Morse, its superintendent.

The building and equipment cost about $100,000. The school, since its foundation, has been supported wholly by Mr. Rindge.


The city Hall.

The architects of the city hall were Messrs. Longfellow, Alden & Harlow. A suitable site was purchased by the city government, located on Main Street, and extending from Bigelow to Inman streets. Ground was broken February 1, 1889, and the corner-stone was laid, with appropriate ceremonies, on May 15, 1889, by Most Worshipful Henry Endicott, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts.

On December 9, 1890, the new city hall, finished and furnished, was formally transferred to the city, with exercises simple in character, in accordance with the wish of Mr. Rindge.

The building is of quarry-faced stone, and stands well back from the street, with terraces in front. It is 157 feet long, 92 feet deep on the sides, but has a recessed court 32 by 37 feet at the back. The front wall is broken by a beautiful tower 27 feet square, which rises 154 feet from its base. The building is remarkable for its fine proportions and massive dignity. Its cost was about $225,000. In front and over the handsome entrance is placed the inscription suggested by Mr. Rindge.

With characteristic modesty, the city's benefactor insisted, as a condition of his generous gifts, that no memorial to him should be placed in any of these buildings, nor should his name be connected with them. ‘What I am aiming to do,’ he said, ‘is to establish certain didactic public buildings.’ So upon each he wrote the lesson it was to teach. But his gifts will forever teach another lesson which his modesty would not mention, —the lesson of a noble life and fortune devoted to God and to his fellow-men.

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