A Look-Back at Andrew Carnegie and the NYC Historic Carnegie Libraries

 

 

 

Patrons in the reading room of the Carnegie Library of Homestead in Munhall, Pa., circa 1900. The Carnegie Steel Co.fought back against striking steel workers in Homestead in 1892. Library of Congress

This is the story of an immigrant, coming to America in the 1880s, building an empire, and donating most of his millions to fund public libraries across the country. The man was Andrew Carnegie, who arrived in the U.S. at the age of thirteen with his family from Scotland. His family was dirt poor, but young Carnegie’s world opened up when he was invited to spend Saturday afternoons at a local private library by a wealthy Pittsburgh man. It was then that he resolved that if he would ever obtain wealth, it should be used to establish free libraries.

A total of 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built between 1883 and 1929, throughout the world, including some belonging to public and university library systems. The first Carnegie library was built in his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland. By the 1990s, nearly all of the 1,689 Carnegie-funded library buildings in the U.S. were still standing and more than half were still being used as libraries. According to Wikipedia, 67 libraries were built with funds from one grant totaling $5,202,261 (worth some $162 million today), awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York on December 8, 1899. Although the original grant was negotiated in 1899, most of the grant money was awarded as the libraries were built between 1901 and 1923. Carnegie libraries were built in all 5 boroughs. Below are the remaining Carnegie Libraries in the five boroughs of New York City.

Beginning in Manhattan

The NYPL located at 222 East 79th Street (Yorkville Branch) was designed by James Brown Lord and opened on December 13, 1902. It was the first Carnegie Library built in New York City.

The first Carnegie Library built in NYC, located at 222 East 79th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 9 West 124th Street opened in 1909. This building was renovated in 2004 at a cost of nearly $4 million. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White. In 2021, NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission designated this branch an Individual Landmark.

NYPL 9 West 124th Street.

 

The NYPL located at 203 West 115th Street, now known as the Harry Belafonte 115th Street Library, opened in 1908. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White.

NYPL 203 W. 115th Street. Image via wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 224 East 125th Street opened in 1904. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White. The library is located between Third and Second Avenues ~ and part of East Harlem 125, a work in progress.

NYPL 224 East 125th Street. Image via wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 103 West 135th Street opened in 1905. Now part of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research center of The New York Public Library. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White.

NYPL located at 103 West 135th Street. Image via wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 121-7 East 58th Street opened in 1907. It was demolished and replaced by a new branch in two floors of an office tower at 127 East 58th Street, which opened in 1969. The original Carnegie Library was designed by Carrère & Hastings

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 328 East 67th Street was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard in the style of the Yorkville branch, and opened in 1905. this building has undergone two extensive renovations in the 1950s and 2005..

NYPL located at 328 East 67th Street. Image via wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 112 East 96th Street opened in 1905. It was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard. This branch bridges the neighborhoods of Yorkville and East Harlem. It was renovated in 1991, considerably expanding the space available to the public, and modernizing the building, while retaining its original architectural beauty.

NYPL located at 112 E. 96th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 174 East 110th Street opened in 1905. It is noted that this library “is apparently not an entirely new building, but is rather an extensive renovation of the earlier (1899) Aguilar Library building on the same site.” It was designed by Herts & Tallant.

NYPL located at 174 East 110th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 33 East Broadway (the Chatham Square Branch) opened in 1903. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White.

NYPL located at 33 East Broadway. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 742 10th Avenue (The Columbus Branch) opened in 1909. It was designed by Babb, Cock & Willard.

NYPL located at 742 10th Avenue. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 228 East 23rd Street, the Epiphany Library, opened in 1907. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings.

NYPL located at 228 East 23rd Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 209 West 23rd Street (Muhlenberg Branch) opened in 1906. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings.

NYPL located at 209 West 23rd Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 535 West 179th Street (Fort Washington Branch) opened in 1914. It was designed by Cook & Welch. When it  celebrated its 75th anniversary, several well-known personalities, including Henry Kissinger and journalist/author Edwin Newman, fondly recalled how important the branch was to them as teenagers. Among the many other noted residents this branch has served are Lou Gehrig, Maria Callas, Ralph Ellison, Marianne Moore, and Jacob Javits.

NYPL located at 535 West 179th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

the NYPL located at 388-92 East Houston Street was designed by Carrère and Hastings and opened in 1909. The building was razed during the widening of Houston Street. A public housing project now stands at its original site. A new Hamilton Fish Park Branch opened at 415 East Houston Street in 1960.

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 503 West 125th Street, the Hamilton Grange Library, opened in 1907. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White. The name of the Hamilton Grange branch of the New York Public Library dates to 1802, when Alexander Hamilton moved his family into a country house he called The Grange in the then-rural outskirts of New York City. This branch was declared a landmark in 1970.

NYPL located at 503 West 145th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 66 Leroy Street (Hudson Park Branch) in Greenwich Village opened in 1906. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings. It is located next to the James J. Walker Park and Carmine Street Pool, with the Keith Haring mural.

NYPL located at 66 Leroy Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 190 Amsterdam Avenue was designed by Carrère & Hastings and opened in 1905. This building stood until 1969, when it was replaced by a new one on the same 69th Street site. That branch was replaced by another in 1992, at 127 Amsterdam Avenue and 65th Street.

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 61 Rivington Street opened in 1905. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White. It is now Lamb’s Church of the Nazarene.

61 Rivington Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 444 Amsterdam Avenue (The Saint Agnes Branch) opened in 1906. It was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard. Beginning in 1893 as a parish library at St. Agnes Chapel on West 91st Street, the St. Agnes Branch also housed a small collection for the Library for the Blind. In 1906, the St. Agnes Branch opened its doors in its present home on Amsterdam Avenue.

NYPL 444 Amsterdam. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 303-5 36th Street was designed by McKim, Mead & White and opened in 1908. It was razed in order to construct the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

the NYPL located at 192 East Broadway (The Seward Park Branch) opened in 1909. It was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard.

NYPL located at 192 East Broadway. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 331 East 10th Street ~ The Tompkins Square Branch of The New York Public Library has been serving residents of Manhattan’s Lower East Side since 1904. Opening in 1887 as the Fifth Street Branch of the Aguilar Free Library, the branch relocated three times before moving to its present site facing Tompkins Square Park. Traditionally, Tompkins Square has served varied ethnic populations, including German, Italian, Jewish, Polish, and Ukrainian, and, since the 1960s, a thriving arts community.

NYPL located at 331 East 10th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 1000 St. Nicholas Avenue (Washington Heights Branch) opened in 1914. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings,

NYPL located at 1000 St. Nicholas Avenue. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 1465 York Avenue ~ Among the oldest libraries in New York City, the Webster Branch has a history that can be traced back to 1893, before its incorporation into The New York Public Library Branch system. Founded as the Webster Free Library, it was named after Charles B. Webster, who donated the building on East 76th Street where the library was originally located. The current site on 78th Street and York Avenue was constructed with funds donated to New York by Andrew Carnegie.

NYPL located at 1465 York Avenue. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 457 West 40th Street was designed by Cook & Welch and opened in 1913. It is now part of the Covenant House complex.

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

Carnegie Libraries in Staten Island

The NYPL located at 75 Bennett Street (Port Richmond Branch) opened in 1905. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings. This branch still has many of its original details with fireplaces, oak shelving and original turn-of-the-century furniture.

NYPL located at 75 Bennett Street, Staten Island. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 5 Central Avenue known today as the St.. George Library Center, was designed by Carrère & Hastings. When the library opened in 1907, it was the largest library on Staten Island.

NYPL located at 5 Central Avenue in Staten Island. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 132 Canal Street ( The Stapleton Branch) opened in 1907. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings.

NYPL 132 Canal Street, Staten Island. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 7430 Amboy Road ( the Tottenville branch) opened in 1904. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings.

NYPL located at 7430 Amboy Road, Staten Island. Image via Wikipedia

 

 

Carnegie Libraries in the Bronx

The NYPL located at 2556 Bainbridge Avenue was designed by McKim, Mead & White and opened in 1923. The building was the Fordham Library Center, the New York Public Library’s central branch in the Bronx through 2005, when it closed and was replaced by the newly built Bronx Library Center located at 310 East Kingsbridge Road.

NYPL located at 2556 Bainbridge Avenue, Bronx. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 78 West 168th Street was designed by Carrère & Hastings and opened in 1908. The building was demolished in 1975 and replaced by a new High Bridge Branch on the same site.

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 877 Southern Boulevard (the Hunts Point branch) was designed by Carrère & Hastings and completed in 1929. This was the final Carnegie building added to the New York Public Library system.

NYPL located at 877 Southern Blvd, Bronx. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 3041 Kingsbridge Avenue was designed by McKim, Mead & White and opened in 1905. This branch outgrew its original building and closed in 1958. It is now the Spuyten Duyvil Preschool.

NYPL located at 3041 Kingsbridge Avenue in the Bronx. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 910 Morris Avenue (Melrose Library) opened in 1914. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings, and originally a four story building however in 1959, it was reduced to two stories.

NYPL located at 910 Morris Avenue, Bronx. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 610 East 169th Street (Morrisania Library) opened in 1908. It was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard. The area was once farmland owned by Jonas Bronck, the man who gave his name to the Bronx. He sold his land in 1660 to Captain Richard and Colonel Lewis Morris, who changed the name of the land from Broncksland to Morrisania.

NYPL located at 610 East 169th Street, Bronx. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 321 East 140th Street (Mott Haven Library) opened in 1905 and is the oldest library building in the Bronx. It was designed by Babb, Cook & Willard.

NYPL located at 321 East 140th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 1866 Washington Avenue (Tremont Library) opened in 1905. It was designed by Carrère & Hastings.

NYPL located at 1866 Washington Avenue, Bronx. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 761 East 160th Street ( Woodstock Library) opened in 1914. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White.

NYPL located at 761 East 160th Street, Bronx. Image via Wikipedia.

 

 

Carnegie Libraries in Brooklyn

The NYPL located at 203 Arlington Avenue at Warwick Street was originally known as the Eastern Branch, and officially opened in 1906. The building was renovated from 1950-52 and in 1980.

NYPL located at 203 Arlington Ave. Image via google maps

 

The NYPL located at 496 Franklin Avenue (Bedford Library) ~ This library plan was recognized as an excellent example of library planning and design in the March 1903 issue of Library Journal. It was built using Carnegie funds. In 2000 an interior renovation and exterior restoration by Sen Architects was completed.

NYPL located at 496 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 61 Glenmore Avenue (Brownsville Library)  ~ The first Brownsville Branch opened in 1905 on the second floor of the Alliance Building after the Hebrew Educational Society donated its books. The Carnegie-built branch, which opened at 61 Glenmore Avenue in 1908, continues to operate today.

NYPL located at 61 Glenmore Avenue, Brooklyn. Image via google maps

 

The NYPL located at 340 Bushwick Avenue opened in the rented first floor of a church at Montrose Avenue and Humboldt Street in 1903, before moving to its present location on Bushwick Avenue in 1908.

NYPL located at 340 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 396 Clinton Street at Union Street was designed by William B. Tubby, and opened at this location in 1906 – originally called the Carroll Park Branch. the name was changed to Carroll Gardens in 1973.  A predecessor library operated out of a rented space at Smith Street and Carroll Streets from 1901 until the completion of this building, which still serves the community today.

NYPL located at 396 Clinton Street at Union Street, Brooklyn. Image via Wikipedia.

 

The NYPL located at 790 Bushwick Avenue ~ DeKalb Library, originally opened its doors in 1905. One of Brooklyn’s most beautiful Carnegie branches, the building was designed by the Brooklyn architect William Tubby in the Classical Revival style. Many of the original features in this three-bay brick and limestone building remain today, including its spacious, high-ceiling reading rooms. The library was rehabilitated in 1950.

NYPL located at 790 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn. Image via Google Maps

 

The NYPL located at 1044 Eastern Parkway ~ This medium-sized library was designed by Raymond F. Almirall and opened in 1914. the building underwent rehabilitation work in 1950-51 and 1975. The interior was originally one-story, and has been divided into two floors. It retains some of its original details including the reading nook with fireplace and mantel of decorative tile, wood paneling, and decorative plaster ceilings.

NYPL located at 1044 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn. Image via google maps

 

The NYPL located at 22 Linden Boulevard at Flatbush Avenue has had several patrons in its present location one Linden Boulevard since 1905. It was the sixth library built in Brooklyn with funds from Andrew Carnegie. The building was designed by Rudolphe L. Daus, but an extensive renovation in 1934 has rendered the building almost unrecognizable.

NYPL 22 Linden Blvd at Flatbush Ave. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 9424 Fourth Avenue (Fort Hamilton Library) started out as an independent free library and was absorbed into Brooklyn Public Library in 1901. The building was designed by the Lord & Hewlett architecture firm, opening in 1907.

NYPL located at 9424 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn. Image via google maps.

 

The NYPL located at 107 Norman Avenue at Leonard Street   ~ The original Greenpoint Library opened in 1906, as one of Brooklyn’s first Carnegie Libraries. The building deteriorated and was demolished in the early 1970s. It was replaced with a one-story building.

NYPL located at 107 Norman Avenue at Leonard Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Image via brooklynlibrary.org

The NYPL located at 81 Devoe Street at Leonard Street ~ The Leonard Branch was officially opened in 1908 at its current site at Devoe and Leonard Streets. The one-story classically styled building, designed by William B. Tubby, has an elegantly designed interior of 10,000 square feet that originally featured molded skylights, wood paneling and wood-trimmed windows. 

NYPL located at 81 Devoe Street at Leonard Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Image via google maps.

 

The NYPL located at 361 Lewis Avenue in Bedford Stuyvesant was the 11th Carnegie Brooklyn library. Known as the Macon Library, it is one of the best preserved of the Carnegie branches in Brooklyn. It opened in 1907. The building still retains its original fireplaces, oak paneling, alcoves and wooden benches.

NYPL located at 361 Lewis Avenue Bedford Stuyvesant. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 25 4th Avenue at Pacific Street ~ The Pacific Branch was the first of the Carnegie-funded libraries to open in Brooklyn, on October 8, 1904. Architect Raymond F. Almirall designed the building, at 25 Fourth Avenue, and was hired again as architect after the building suffered structural damages due to BMT subway construction in 1914. Upon its opening, New York Tribune praised the branch for its classical and dignified design.

NYPL The Pacific Branch. Image via NYPL

 

The NYPL located at 431 6th Avenue at 9th Street in Park Slope ~ This library began life as a small collection of books on natural history in the Litchfield Mansion in Prospect Park. In 1906, the building, designed by Raymond Almirall was finished, using Carnegie funds.

NYPL located at 431 6th Avenue at 9th Street. Image via Wikipedia

 

The original Red Hook Library, opened on April 22, 1915, was the only of Brooklyn’s Carnegie libraries to be built in the Mediterranean Revival style. The architect, Richard A. Walker, accented the original interior of the building with decorative wooden staircases, pendant light fixtures and clerestory windows. This architectural gem was forced to close in August 1946 after suffering extensive damage from a fire, and was demolished soon after.

The original Red Hook Library. Image via Brooklyn Public Library

 

The NYPL located at 8 Thomas S Boyland Street known as the Saratoga Library opened in 1908. The building was renovated in 1958, 1974, and 1990.

NYPL located at 8 Thomas S. Boyland Street in Brooklyn. Image via HDC.org

 

The NYPL located at 51st Street and 4th Avenue, known as South Branch opened in 1905 on the same site the Sunset Park branch occupies today. The original two-story building was designed by Lord & Hewlett and was demolished in 1970.

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 581 Mother Gaston Boulevard was originally constructed to relieve overcrowding at the nearby Brownsville branch. Stone Avenue Library was one of the last Carnegie libraries built in Brooklyn. Officially opened on September 24, 1914, it was originally called the Brownsville Children’s Library and is believed to have been the first library in the world devoted exclusively to serving children. Designed by architect William B. Tubby in the Jacobethan style, many of the original architectural details that distinguished the branch as a place for children remain, including the Rookwood storybook fireplace tiles and the original carved wooden benches with rabbit-head finials.

NYPL Stone Avenue Branch. Image via HDC.org

 

The NYPL located at 93 Saint Edwards Street in Ft Greene was originally called the City Park Branch. This library was renamed to honor Walt Whitman (who once lived on nearby Ryerson Street) in 1943, on the 125th anniversary of his birth. The branch once boasted a naval architecture and science collection, to serve the workers of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

NYPL located at 93 Saint Edwards Street in Ft Greene. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 240 Division Avenue, Williamsburg Branch ~ Although the branch didn’t open until 1905, it is often considered the first of Brooklyn’s Carnegie libraries. Thousands, including Mayor Seth Low, came out with much fanfare for a ceremony in November 1903, when a time capsule of documents including a copy of the Carnegie contract was laid in the cornerstone of the building at 240 Division Avenue.

NYPL located at 240 Division Avenue. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 360 Irving Avenue, the Washington Irving Branch in Bushwich, also known as Washington Irving Library. It was the 21st and final Carnegie Library built in Brooklyn.

NYPL, the Washington Irving Branch. Image via HDC.org

 

 

Carnegie Libraries in Queens

The NYPL located at 14-01 Astoria Boulevard, the Astoria Branch opened in 1904. It was designed by Tuthill & Higgins. In 1930 the structure was heavily renovated through the Federal Civil Works Administration. The original tile roof was replaced with slate, and one chimney was removed. Additional renovations took place in the 1960s.

NYPL located at 14-01 Astoria Blvd. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 86-01 Broadway in Elmhurst was demolished in 2012. A new library was completed on that site in 2016.

NYPL located at 86-01 Broadway in Elmhurst. Image via Wikipedia

 

Located at 94 Chamber in Far Rockaway was destroyed by fire in 1962

Original Far Rockaway branch of the NYPLh. Destroyed by fire in 1962. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL on Kissena Boulevard and Main Street in Flushing was demolished in 1955

Andrew Carnegie, c. 1905, National Portrait Gallery Portrait via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 121-23 14th Ave. and 13-16 College Point Blvd. The Poppenhusen Branch. t is the second Queens Carnegie library opened and one of the five surviving library branches in Queens built with funds provided by Andrew Carnegie for the purpose of establishing a citywide branch library system.

NYPL located at 121-23 14th Ave and 13-16 College Point Blvd. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 118-14 Hillside Avenue in Richmond Hill. The building, designed by Tuthill & Higgins, architects in 1905, is situated on a triangular lot bordered by Hillside Avenue, Lefferts Boulevard, and the elevated tracks of the Long Island Railroad running along Babbage Street.  Tuthill & Higgins designed the Astoria Branch as well. Originally, the branch consisted of a structure three bays wide and one bay deep that faced Hillside Avenue.  An addition using the same tan brick walls and stone ornament was constructed in 1929, which significantly expanded the facility.  This newer section, containing the Children’s Library, has an entrance on Lefferts Boulevard and an additional bay along Babbage Street.  The historic tiled roof with ornate metal cresting was replaced with a standing seam metal roof in the 1960s.  All doors and windows have been replaced.  The interior has gone through several renovations.  In 1985, new lit display shelves and a new circulation desk were installed.  The ceiling has been lowered, and the floors have been replaced with asphalt tile.  Very few historic interior details remain.

NYPL located at 118-14 Hillside Ave in Richmond Hill. Image via Wikipedia

 

The NYPL located at 85-41 Forest Pkwy in Woodhaven. Opening its doors to the public on January 5, 1924, the Woodhaven Branch was the last Carnegie Library completed in Queens, and was partially funded with the remainder of the Carnegie gift to the city.  The building is located on the northeast corner of Forest Parkway and 85th Drive.  The architect, Robert F. Schirmer, along with J.W. Schmidt, also completed the Queens Borough Public Library’s central building in 1927; which is now the Queens Family Courthouse.

NYPL located at 85-41 Forest Pkwy in Woodhaven. Image via Wikipedia

Andrew Carnegie’s thinking about wealth was in many ways similar to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s ‘Giving Pledge’, where billionaires pledge to give away half of their wealth.

In 1889 Carnegie wrote an article called “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which he spelled out his views on philanthropy: “In bestowing charity the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves.” … The rich should give, so the poor could improve their own lives — and thus the lives of the society. Giving was a code of honor. “The man who dies rich dies in disgrace,” Carnegie said.

Andrew Carnegie was born in 1835 in Dunfermline, Scotland and continued funding new libraries until shortly before his death in 1919 in Lenox, Massachusetts.