From the late 1870s through the 1890s, many small Massachusetts libraries were built in the Romanesque Revival style. The Gleason Public Library in Carlisle is one of them.
Built in 1896, the building was designed by architect George G. Adams who was paid a total of $600 for his services. The brick mason, Daniel W. Robbins, was paid $4000.
The original library is a three-part building, consisting of a central two-story gable-front block flanked by a pair of one-story hip-roofed side wings, each with a tall brick corbelled ridge chimney set close to the edge of the main roof. The roofing material for all three sections of the original building is gray slate. The foundation is granite block, and granite window sills, lintels, water table and rake course provide a contrast of color and texture to the dark, smooth pressed brick of the walls.
Terra cotta, a material used frequently in Richardsonian Romanesque buildings, forms other decoration, particularly in the center front gable peak and in ornate foliate medallions that accent the spandrels of the characteristic Romanesque arches and hold the chains for exterior copper lanterns. A recurring theme throughout the building, repeated in the 2000 rear addition, is the typical heavy Romanesque round-headed brick arch at both windows and doorways. The corbelled and modillioned brick cornice is also characteristic of the style.