Monday, August 22, 2022

Red Ammonoid Fossils at Central Boston Public Library

The biggest surprise for me when I visited Boston last week was the Boston Public Library's McKim Building. It is an artistic and geological wonder. So many ammonite fossils embedded in the marble floor tiles. The complex is known as the Central Library in Copley Square of Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The City of Boston chartered their public library system in 1848. Decades later having outgrown previous locations they awarded a contract in 1887 to the firm of McKim, Mead, and White to build what is now known as the McKim Building. The cornerstone was placed in 1888 in which Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his dedication poem, "This palace is the people's own" (origin of it's later name "Palace of the People"). The building completed in 1895 at cost of 2.2 million dollars. Charles Follen McKim (1847-1909) was the chief architect for this building.

On the second floor of the McKim Building is the Abbey Room (originally the Book Delivery Room where books were picked up by patrons). The walls of the room have fifteen panels depicting Sir Galahad's Quest for the Holy Grail painted by Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911). He used Alfred, Lord  Tennyson's story Idylls of the King for the basis of these paintings. The checkerboard pattern of tiles on the floor are white Istrian limestone and red Verona marble (limestone aka Rosso Verona). Some of these reddish-pink tiles contain coiled ammonoids similar to what I found in Italy at Rome's St. Ignazio Church and Vatican City's St. Peter's Basilica.

Elwell, Newton W. "Delivery room." Photograph. Boston, Mass.: Geo. H. Polley & Co., 1896. Digital Commonwealth, (accessed August 21, 2022).  

It is amazing that these tiles have been in place for over 100 years. These ammonoids date to the Upper Jurassic Period of the Rosso Ammonitico Formation, Oxfordian Stage, Verona Province, Venetia Region of Italy.

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