Thank you for clicking on this QR code, one of many to explore along Peabody’s Main Street.

This project is a collaboration between the Peabody Historical Society & Museum and the City of Peabody. We hope you enjoy reading about our history!


George Peabody made a generous donation of $20,000 in 1852 to his hometown – for the creation of the town’s first truly public library. Prior to the Peabody Institute Library, there was the Danvers Mechanic Institute, a membership-based library. George Peabody made clear that he wanted a learning space available to all regardless of their ability to pay.

The main section of the library was completed in 1854. The architect was Richard Bond, who also designed Salem City Hall and Lewis Wharf in Boston. This beautiful building in the Italianate style has a granite foundation, red brick façade, round-top windows and sandstone trim.

Postcard, 1906

As you can see from this 1906 postcard, the library once had a tall tower to the left, which provided a panoramic view of Peabody. This was removed in 1953 during renovations. The Peabody Institute Library is the oldest public library in the country to still operate in its original building.

The Peabody Institute Library created this excellent timeline of its history.

Timeline of the Peabody Institute Library | Sutori