This introduces us to the most conspicuous act by which the subject of our sketch has proved his public spirit and generosity of purpose as a citizen. I refer to his gift to the city of Fitchburg of a beautiful public library, which, by vote of the city government, is to be called by his name. This act of beneficence reaches farther than appears to a casual observer. It secures to the city, for all coming time, a “Peoples’ College,” where the child of the poorest, as well as of the richest, the toiler as well as the man of leisure, may get a very important education. This building is to be devoted to art as well as to literature, and we look to see it exert a refining and cultivating, as well as an educating influence over the rising generations of our city. Its very presence, in a most conspicuous position, in the very heart of the city, will be educational. It will prove itself a most valuable adjunct to the excellent course of instruction given in our public schools.
For some years it had been in Mr. Wallace’s mind to do something of this sort. In 1881 he purchased what was known as the Ruggles property, opposite Monument Park. In the spring of 1884, when he left for his annual tour in the South, he placed in the hands of Judge Ware, Chairman of the Trustees of the Public Library, a genuine surprise to his fellow citizens. I clip from the Fitchburg Sentinel of March 26, 1884, the following account of the matter:
“Both branches of the
City Council met on Tuesday evening and
transacted the following business:
The principal business was
In joint convention.
Major Davis presided and announced
that Judge T.K. Ware,
Chairman of the Trustees of the Public Library, had a
communication to present to the City Council.
Judge Ware said that he appeared before the Council at the request of Honorable Rodney Wallace, who, previous to his departure for the South, left with him the following communication which gave him pleasure and gratification to be able to present to the City Council:
To His Honor, the Mayor
and the City Council of the City of
Gentlemen:—The subscriber has felt for a long time that a building with proper appurtenances for our Public Library here in Fitchburg was much needed, and makes the following proposition, viz:
I propose to convey by proper deed to the city of Fitchburg my lot of land situated at the corner of Main street and Newton place, and to expend, with the advice and approval of the Trustees of the Public Library, within the next two years, a sum not less than forty thousand dollars ($40,000) in erecting a building on said lot; said building to be under the care and management of the Board of Trustees of the Public Library for the time being, and to be used for a Free Public