Arabella Rice, youngest of four daughters born to Capt. Robert Rice and wife Charlotte, died 1872
Rice Public Library opened on 5 November 1888.
The institution's first trustees included former New Hampshire Gov. Ichabod Goodwin, who was married to Arabella's cousin Sarah Parker Rice.
Their mansion is one of the celebrated landmarks of Portsmouth's Strawberry Banke.
Arabella remains something of a mystery today. Despite her affluence and prominence as one of the area's wealthiest residents, there are no known portraits or photographs of this patroness.
Her initials "AR" can still be seen as one approaches the building from Wentworth Street, elegantly carved within a panel to the left of the archway high over the main entrance.
They are also inscribed along the Italian marble fireplace on the first floor inside the library.
The year "1888" is etched into the front of the building as well, up above the grand second-floor balcony.
Prior to this new building, the library was housed within a single room in what is now Wallingford Square.
In its early days, Rice Public Library held separate reading rooms for ladies and gentlemen.
The second floor of the building served as a meeting place for Civil War veterans from the local Grand Army of the Republic chapter.
In 1979, the landmark structure was added to the National Register of Historic
"Of its type and style, the Rice Public Library is by far the most outstanding building in the State of Maine," the Maine Historic Preservation Commission stated in its nomination form.
The beautiful gardens surrounding the library were designed by Olmstead Associates of Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1979. The Harborside Garden Club donated the funds for the plans, plants and landscaping, and maintained the gardens for many years.
Over time, the Rice building became too cramped for its growing collections. The former Southern York County District Courthouse, located diagonally across the street, was purchased in 1988 and renovated into the Taylor Building annex.
The judge's bench was converted into the circulation desk, and the judicial chambers became the staff room.
The Taylor Building, named for local physician and former library trustee Paul Taylor, opened in October 1990.
In 1991, longtime patron Sarah Almyra Roberts left the library more than $300,000 in her will, which funded a major overhaul of the Rice building.
The renovation included the removal of a false overhead which had been installed to conserve energy, revealing the library's exquisite ceiling.
The second-story room was dedicated in Roberts' memory, and used for children's programming and youth collections. A plaque was erected in her honor
in January 1992, located beneath a large painting of Roberts painted by Kylin J. Bierau.
The Kay Howells Room, dedicated in memory of Katherine F. Howells, is located in the former basement of the Rice structure. It was converted into the periodical room, and used as a meeting space for the library's board of directors and the Friends of Rice Public Library.
On 24, August 2013, Rice Public Library celebrated its 125th anniversary by hosting a neighborhood party, complete with the 18th-century rolling hoop games, antique cars and bicycles, and Victorian-era costumes.
Many decades after her death, Arabella's generosity continues to benefit the citizens of her father's native town.
This marker, funded in memory of Eunice Sillsby by her father and friends, was installed in June 2016.
Text prepared by D. Allan Kerr