St. Johnsbury Athenaeum

The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum, in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, is significant because of its construction, the American landscape paintings and books from its original role as a public library and free art gallery, and funding by Horace Fairbanks, manufacturer of the world’s first platform scale. The art collection contains a number of Hudson River School paintings. This unaltered building retains a strong, Victorian ( French Second Empire) flavor of the 19th century. It is one of about ten athenaeums in the United States.

When the library opened, the collection consisted of 9,000 books selected by bibliographer William F. Poole.

Art Gallery
In 1873, Fairbanks added a small art gallery. This is now the oldest gallery still in its original form in the United States. The walls and floor are black walnut. The art gallery is lighted naturally from an arched skylight in the ceiling. Cases on two sides of the room contain art books in tooled leather bindings. Gilt-framed paintings are displayed. One hundred works of art are displayed. Besides originals by American artists, there are also copies of European masterpieces. The major part of the collection is by American and European artists from the late eighteenth century to the middle nineteenth century. Hudson River School painters include Asher B. Durand, Jasper Francis Cropsey, Sanford Gifford, a Luminist painter, James and William Hart pastoral landscapes with cattle. Western scenes are portrayed by Samuel Colman and Worthington Whittredge. Dominating the room is a canvas, ten by fifteen feet, of the Domes of Yosemite, by Albert Bierstadt. European painters represented by original works of art include: Bouguereau ("Raspberry Girl"), Felix Ziem ("Venice"), Charles Euphrasie Kuwasseg, and Louis Pinel de Grandchamp.