If you think H.H. Rogers ran out of money after one magnificent building or two, you’re sadly mistaken. When you’re a Standard Oil board member, during a period when the income tax rate was zero, you can lay your hands on money the way Gomez Addams used to in the old black and white TV show: The Addams Family. You just wander around your big mansion and open up any drawer and pull out wads of cash. I don’t know if H.H. Rogers pulled lit cigars out of his pockets too, or went wild when his wife spoke French, but he apparently loved his daughter the same way Gomez loved little Wednesday.
Old Hell Hound Rogers had a lot of money, but I bet he would have traded every bit of it to get his daughter Millicent back when she died, only seventeen years old, of a heart ailment. Right across the street from that magnificent dustcatcher of a Unitarian Church we’ve been talking about this week, he also built the most sublime little confection of a building, and named it after his lost little girl, because she said once that she loved libraries.
I am always touched when someone tries to deal with the loss of a loved one by commemorating them in the most beautiful manner possible; there seems to be a trend recently towards simply using loss and tragedy as a sort of club to leverage a kind of pity and influence out of your fellow man. Millicent’s family laid the cornerstone for the Millicent Library in a private ceremony, alone with their tragedy, and so left only the pleasantest public memory of the source of their woe for the world to keep. One wonders about the ability of any monument to soften such a blow to the interested parties.
That’s Dante glaring at you from the front wall of the building. Forgive him, he’s been through hell. The library is a little bit of heaven though, so all in all, he comes out ahead.
Here’s another picture of the outside:
Fairhaven is still a sleepy little place, and the library has suffered from the best kind of neglect- no one’s got the urge to staple a huge hideous addition on it, they’ve simply kept the original in good repair. I’m sure aluminum siding and gold shag carpeting or something equally fooolish was considered for it somewhere along the line, but H.H. Rogers is a long time in the cold, cold, ground, and there’s no money in the town budget to wreck it, and so it stays the way it was built, more or less.
We love going there. There’s all kinds of interesting things in there besides the books, and when all else fails, you can just walk around and gawk at the place itself.
We remember his daughter kindly, for he surely did.