The Providence Athenaeum or, Athena Library, is one of the oldest libraries in the United States. The Greek Revival building was completed in 1838 and is located on Benefit Street. A 3-story addition was built on in 1914 and a second addition in 1979. The Library is privately funded by citizens of the neighborhood and is a popular study site for nearby college students
The "Ath", as it's locally known, is home to many rare and special collections of texts, as well as many magnificent pieces of art. These include marble busts of respected authors and dignitaries, and an Egyptian Cabinet that once housed Napoleon's "Description of Egypt". A marble bust of the Greek goddess Athena greets patrons from the open mezzanine above the open main floor.
One of the most famous visitors to the Library was Edgar Allan Poe, and is showcased as such by the library's extensive collection of Poe memorabilia. In September of 1848, Poe met Sarah Helen Whitman, a brilliant poet to whom he proposed with promises of sobriety if she would only accept. It was at the "Ath" that Whitman received a note from an unnamed courier telling her that Poe had broken his promises. She immediately called of the wedding and the two never saw each other again.
The Library is a popular tourist attraction and is rife with history and memorabilia. Poe's signature can still be found in the Athenaeum's 1848 Charging Book, as well as an anonymous poem, 'Ulalme', which Poe claimed he wrote and signed his name in pencil in the library's copy of the American Whig Review. The social events held there often take guests to another era.