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‘Aunt Lizzie’ Joins Family at Richards Free Library

This portrait of Elizabeth A. “Lizzie” Richards (1847-1868) was recently donated to the Richards Free Library by her niece, Margaret Richards Chapman. Courtesy photograph

This portrait of Elizabeth A. “Lizzie” Richards (1847-1868) was recently donated to the Richards Free Library by her niece, Margaret Richards Chapman. Courtesy photograph

Newport — A portrait of Elizabeth A. “Lizzie” Richards (1847-1868) was recently donated to the Richards Free Library by her niece, Margaret Richards Chapman.

Chapman, 95, recently moved from her New London home to Woodcrest Village, an assisted living facility in town. Chapman “just felt like (donating it) was a good thing to do,” said her daughter, Cynthia Chapman Canaday.

The family has had a long history with the library. Margaret Richards Chapman is the granddaughter of Dexter Richards, who founded Newport’s original library in 1888.

The building eventually ran out of space for books, and in the 1960s, Louise Richards Rollins, another granddaughter of Dexter Richards, offered her home on Main Street for the library, according to the library website. The first floor of the house was outfitted as a library, and Rollins, Margaret Richards Chapman’s cousin, continued to live on the second floor until her death.

Canaday said she’s not sure who painted the portrait, which had been in the family for generations. “I grew up with it,” she said. Wherever they lived, “Aunt Lizzie was in the dining room.”

It now hangs in the library’s second floor hallway, along with portraits of Lizzie’s father, Dexter Richards, and her brother, Seth Mason Richards.