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A Short History of the Kingsbridge Library

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The Kingsbridge Library will soon be moving to a new building and as we start to plan for our move, I can't help but reflect on the long and rich history the Kingsbridge Branch has had through the years.

 Riverdale Avenue - 230th Street (West), Digital ID 701708F, New York Public LibraryThe Kingsbridge Library lends its beginnings to the Kingsbridge Free Library, established in 1894 and housed above Hecht's drugstore on what is now 230th St. between Kingsbridge Ave and Corlear Ave. It quickly became clear that the small space was not adequate and it grew even more imperative that the library needed a new and more permanent space when a devastating fire swept over Riverdale Ave. While the library remained intact, much of the building in which the library was located was moved away or torn down.

[Kingsbridge, Exterior], Digital ID 1252814, New York Public LibraryThe New York Public Library, with the help of Andrew Carnegie's generous $5.2 million gift, agreed to assign one of the first branches to Kingsbridge and incorporated with the previous Kingsbridge Free Library. It would be the second NYPL branch in the Bronx, the first of which was Mott Haven, which opened six weeks earlier. The new branch, designed by McKim, Mead & White, was located on Kingsbridge Ave on land provided by local resident, Dr. James Douglas, and opened May 19th, 1905.

[Kingsbridge, Adult department], Digital ID 1252808, New York Public LibraryIn the early 20th century, the northwest Bronx experienced a growth of commerce and population greatly facilitated by the extension of the IRT subway line from Manhattan to 242nd st in 1908. It quickly became clear that the library had already outgrown its small space. Its original 4500 volumes had grown to almost 14,000 books by 1935, and residents still felt it wasn't enough to meet the needs of the growing community. Plans to remodel and expand the existing building were considered but never implemented.

The 1940s-1950s saw another period of intense growth in the area with construction of apartment buildings and the Marble Hill Houses public housing project. By now the library's holdings had grown to 30,000 volumes and the tiny building lacked the adequate space for class visits and programs. In 1958, the city finally agreed to provide a replacement branch that would provide three times the space of the former building.

On January 23rd, 1959, the new building, leased from builder and owner Francis J. Ambrosio, Malverne, L.I. opened at 280 West 231st street. In the years since opening, the neighborhood experienced yet another expansion of commercial and residential development and the neighborhood became even more diverse. The busy library became overcrowded and lacked the room to add the needed seating or computers. The library once again realized that the current space was inadequate to meet the community's needs and plans began for a new branch.

Designed by David W. Prendergast (who received a City Art Commission award for his design), the new building would take shape on property purchased by the city directly across the street from the current branch. Hoping to break ground in 2002 and open by 2004, construction was put off several times due to rising costs and need for additional funding. But after many years of waiting, the branch is finally nearing completion.

Thank you to former reference librarian Ms. Silverman who compiled a scrapbook highlighting the Kingsbridge Library's history and to the wonderful work of Reverend Dr. William Tieck in his book, Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Spuyten Duyvil, both of which serve as the basis for this post. Additional information and photos can also be found in the Kingsbridge Branch archives, the scrapbooks Ms. Silverman compiled which are located here at the branch, and in the Digital Gallery.

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Hooray for local history!

Thanks so much for putting this post together. I'm sure it will be informative both for our patrons and our staff. When I started working here over a decade ago, our children's librarian Ms. Osborn used to show visiting classes "the 1905 chair" in the reading room, because it was the last piece of furniture left from the previous building. That chair is no longer with us, I'm sad to say. I'm captivated by the article about the opening of our current location, featuring a meeting room that would seat 100 people. Um ... unless people were meeting on the roof, or people were a LOT smaller back then, I don't know how that would be possible. Our current location has served this community well, but we're definitely looking forward to our new building, with more program space, more public restrooms, and much better wiring.

Awesome Post

Hey where's the like button here? (smile) Oh well two thumbs up Ms. Hoffman!

Thanks for the stroll through

Thanks for the stroll through history. Has opening day been specified? I can't wait!

No date yet, but the latest

No date yet, but the latest estimates are June, so stay tuned!

The opening day is Tuesday

The opening day is Tuesday June 28, 2011

Good local history article.

Good local history article. I especially liked the links to the old newspaper stories.

The new library is finished

The new library is finished and is nice looking. I just don't like the type of chairs at the tables that the patrons have to sit on. They are wood or wood looking and are very hard and uncomfortable. They have no cushioning. But yet the chairs off to the side are made of metal and have big plush blue cushions on them. Plus, they have rubber stoppers on the bottom so the metal won't scrape the floor, but that makes it hard to push your chair in under the table when you are finished. They need to change out those chairs for cushioned comfortable chairs. They also need to paint that ugly concrete instead of the drab gray slabs.

Thank you for your comment, I

Thank you for your comment, I will share your suggestions with the Library Manager

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