These were (and are) educational and cultural institutions, often featuring a private subscription library and reading rooms and sometimes a lecture hall or art gallery. I suppose the proper Latin plural should be “athenaea.”

Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA  Near the top of Beacon Hill, with reading rooms looking out onto a seventeenth-century burying ground. Frequently hosts small but interesting art exhibitions. Founded 1807. Website here.

Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, MA Formerly a private athenaeum, now the local public library. The original 1876 Atheneum building, in a high-Victorian polychrome Gothic style, is now the Berkshire County Registry of Deeds.  Website here.

Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, RI 1746 Founded as a private library, it added “Athenaeum” to its name in 1833. Website here.

Providence Athenaeum, Providence, RI 1836 The successor to a 1753 subscription library, it took its current name in the 19th century, at about the same time it acquired its current Greek-Revival building.  Website here.

Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT 1842 Founded as primarily an art museum rather than a private subscription library, this is the only athenaeum in New England to spell its name without an “a” in its third syllable. Website here.

St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, St. Johnsbury, VT 1871 New England’s northernmost athenaeum, perhaps most notable for its possession of a major landscape painting by Albert Bierstadt. Website here.

Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth, NH 1817 Located in a gracious Federal-style building in the center of town. Website here.


About Peter Chipman

I'm a lexicographer, an editor, and a lover of language and literature. Also a proud father of two, an occasional bell-ringer, a thirteenth-generation New England Yankee, a former owner of a one-room schoolhouse, and the current owner of a 220-year-old farmhouse.
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