Corner of Federal and India Streets.
is Nantucket’s public library. It was established during the 1820’s
and moved in 1834 a remodeled building that had been the Universalist
Church. It was the site of lectures by prominent cultural and political
leaders of the day and the site of abolitionist meetings and conventions.
11, 1841, young Frederick Douglass (c.1817-1895), a former slave who
had come from New Bedford for the island’s first anti-slavery convention,
was moved to make his first public speech before a mixed-race audience.
A year later, another anti-slavery convention degenerated into riot.
The convention was evicted from the Atheneum and was refused use of several
other locations. It wound up at the Big Shop, a large building on the
edge of town where whaleboats were built. Douglass also spoke at the
The Atheneum building and its contents were totally destroyed in the
Great Fire of 1846. A new library was completed within six months.
Renovations in 1955-96, preparing the library for twenty-first-century
service, accomplished the most extensive changes to the building since
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