This is the builder's plan for a library in New Hampshire (US). It shows a small wooden structure with, one its facade, a dormer with a circular window and a double-door.

enter image description here


And this is a photograph of the building itself.

enter image description here


Neither the building plan nor the photograph is dated, but the photo shows "Town Library 1905." Other trustworthy sources show that it was indeed built in 1903, and completed in 1905. But the actual building was made of brick, and it lacks the dormer. Why the change? Why would the builder make such a clear plan and then change it?

  • 11
    Supply chain. Estimated cost. Too ornate for the town. Put dormer on the back side by mistake. And so forth.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 6 at 18:18
  • @JonCuster but aren't bricks more expensive?
    – nuggethead
    Commented Jul 6 at 20:44
  • 11
    Not if the local pastor is a bricklayer. Town projects this time frame often relied on local expertise and free labor. Bricks are fireproof, much better for libraries and schools.
    – justCal
    Commented Jul 6 at 21:00
  • 4
    Maybe there was more money available than originally planned. The bulk of the blueprints seem to be about the roof and ceiling work, which seems to be present in the current building. Commented Jul 6 at 21:00
  • 3
    @nuggethead Thank you for making this wonderful library known to me. I envy the inhabitants of Etna. Commented Jul 6 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


Summary: more money became available after the original plans were drawn up.

The library in question is officially the Hanover Town Library but everyone calls it the Etna Library. (Etna being the part of Hanover in which the library is located.)

According to the annual library reports summarized at the Etna Library web site, there was a change of plan.

In the 1904 report:

"The plan for the library building has been accepted by the trustees and materials are being purchased with the intention of having the building completed and ready by September 1, 1904." - Horace F. Hoyt, Library Treasurer

but then the 1905 report describes a potential change of plan:

"To the inhabitants of the Town of Hanover, in the County of Grafton, in said State, qualified to vote in Town affairs: To see if the town will vote to raise a sum not exceeding six hundred dollars (in addition to the present building fund) for the purpose of enabling the trustees of the Hanover Public Library to erect a brick library building."

The results are given in the 1906 report:

Library highlights: "After the vote of the town to build with brick there was $2,100 available, with interest accrued. In such a case an architect's fee and a contractor's profit would have taken too large a share of the amount; hence the trustees themselves made the plans and bought the materials and superintended the work. The best materials were procured, the workmanship is first-class throughout, and it is believed that there will be little or no need of repairs for years to come. The underpinning, although it has a three-inch cut chamfer, was secured at the price of plain stone, as it was originally cut for a building elsewhere. The brick was from an extra good lot at the Lebanon yard, and was laid by very competent masons. Cement was used to strengthen the mortar. The roof is covered with slate and copper, materials the most durable to be had for the purpose. The plaster, made from lime putty which had seasoned several weeks, was hardened by admixture with cement. The interior is 25 ft. by 33 ft., in one room, finished in hazelwood throughout and varnished. This includes the window casings, the vestibule and door, the shelving which extends entirely around the room, and a paneled ceiling overhead." ...

(The 1906 report gives more details.)

These paragraphs are excerpted from the Hanover annual reports (copies are viewable at https://scholars.unh.edu/hanover_nh_reports/). These reports record the outcome of the votes taken at the previous year's meeting, so the approval of the extra expense for brick construction occurred at the 14 March 1905 Hanover Town Meeting, as recorded on page 42 of the 1906 report.

Added 12 July 2024. The undated Early Handwritten Note About the Library's Architecture on the historic documents page of the library's web site (navigate: About >> History >> Historic Documents) seems to have been written after the decision to build was made and before the building materials were chosen. It has paragraphs labeled "In case of brick building" and "For the wooden building...". It refers to three sheets of drawings, and contains phrases like "as per drawing". This seems consistent with the building material choice being been based on "can we afford it" financial considerations.

  • 2
    Also discovered that (relatedly) the town added funds for a fireproof vault to be included to secure town records. So another reason to build in brick.
    – nuggethead
    Commented Jul 7 at 20:57
  • I wonder if, despite more money to build it from brick, there wasn't quite enough to build the more ornate bits and they were cost-engineered out (in a rare example of function over form)
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 8 at 8:09
  • Mmmm, bikeshedding.
    – Spencer
    Commented Jul 8 at 11:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.