Clockwise from left: The Library’s leafy garden exterior; architectural plans by Mario Tamagno; Jennie Neilson Hays; Dr. Thomas Heyward Hays.
Dr. Hays was a man who made his mark on many aspects of it would be difficult to enlarge the current building in an late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bangkok life – “artistic manner.” Instead, he purchased the adjoining plot medical, philanthropic, and commercial. He was a consulting of land and hired Italian architect Mario Tamagno to design physician to the Royal Court and instrumental in improving a brand new building worthy of Jennie’s library. Tamagno public health in the Kingdom, but also a savvy businessman was already famous in Thailand, having designed the who invested parts of his profit into charitable organisations. Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall, Wat Benchamabophit, the He was also a close friend of Prince Damrong Rajanuphab, Oriental Hotel, and the Hua Lamphong Railway Station. The known today as the Father of Thai Art History and new building was inaugurated in 1922 as the Neilson Hays Archaeology. But the rock behind this extraordinary man was Library in memory of its benefactress and has been lending his wife, Jennie Neilson Hays, praised English-language books to expats and Thais in Bangkok society for her “gentle heart alike ever since. and unobtrusive practical charity.” “The story of its Today, as in 1869 when the Bangkok Ladies’ origin is a Ta j One of Jennie Hays’ greatest passions M ahal-like tale Library Association was established, the was the Bangkok Ladies’ Library of love and loss.” library is still run by a board of women Association, of which she was a volunteers who are responsible for all aspects member for twenty five years and of managing the library, from securing a president for many of those, exerting her considerable finances for upkeep and running costs to planning and influence in society to ensure financial stability for the organizing events and buying books. A look at the library’s Association. When Jennie was taken by cholera in 1920, archives shows that while the length of the skirts of the Dr. Hays was inconsolable, but knew that the best way to board members varied greatly in the course of the 140 years, honour and preserve her memory was through continued they faced the same challenges as far as the running of the support for her passion. library is concerned: increased costs of maintaining the building, the need to increase subscription fees to cover Jennie’s wishes were that the library building be expanded said costs, dwindling membership as a result of increased in order to house the growing library collection. The library subscription fees. Dr. Hays left behind a sizeable endowment at that time was a small, unappealing building on Surawong to ensure the self-sustainability of the library, but that Road, and Dr. Hays, with his impeccable taste, knew that money is long gone and for the past decades the library bangkok101.com
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