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Jersey City Library

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Jersey City Library

Over the century, Stony Creek granite continues the American traditions of elegance, permanence and superior workmanship relied upon by architects and tradesman. The quality and beauty of the stone is utilized on both contemporary and traditional architecture designs. Some of the most renowned architectural artifacts made with Stony Creek granite include bridges, schools, railroads, commercial and private buildings, monuments, Statue of Liberty, graves and the Jersey City Library.

Jersey City library located at 472 Jersey Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey was established an idea of Dr. Leonard J. Gordon of Jersey City who felt a public library was needed in the city. He called a meeting where he suggested his plan to his fellow citizens and successfully excited their interest and the public library began. Dr Gordon was the president among other board of trustees who suggested a convenient site for the building.  In 1889, he was one of seven men who met in the City Hall office of Mayor Orestes Cleveland to organize the first free public library for Jersey City. The appointed trustees chose him as their president after he had battled for years to convince both the public and the political officials that a municipal library was a necessity.

He was a prize-winning member of the 1875 Graduating Class of Bellevue Hospital Medical School, Dr. Gordon was a life-long civic activist. In addition to founding a medical dispensary for the indigent, he also convinced the Lorillard Tobacco Company, for whom he worked as a chemist, to open a 6000-volume reading room for all the company’s (mostly immigrant) employees.  His crowning achievement, however, was his push for and founding of the Free Public Library of Jersey City.  Dr. Gordon served as supervisor of the Library until his death in 1907 at his home at 485 Jersey Avenue. The Jersey City Parks was named after him as a memorial of his illustrious works.

P. Lorillard and Company offered the free library to the adult employees. Dr Gordon may have influenced such decision because he was Lorillard’s chief chemist and physician.

P. Lorillard and Company was a leading recognized brand-name manufacturers in America, one of the oldest manufacturers of tobacco products, and was the nation's largest manufacturer of tobacco. It became synonymous with the production of all manner of tobacco including snuff, plug, chewing, and smoking tobacco, numbering over 160 brands. In 1883, the company reported sales of over $10 million a year in domestic and foreign trade from the production of over 25 million pounds of tobacco products.

Stocked with 15,515 books, the new library opened on July 6, 1891 in rented, gas-lit rooms in two adjacent bank buildings on Washington Street near York. To go from one part of the library to the other, the public had to go out into the street. Clearly, a new structure was needed, one designed to house a large book collection and to provide seating capacity for a city with a population reaching the 200,000 mark.

Throughout the 1890s, the trustees and library staff acquired land at Jersey Avenue and Montgomery Street, hired a supervising architect, Professor A.D.F. Hamlin of Colombia University, and announced a design competition. The architectural firm of Brite and Bacon of New York was selected, contracts were awarded, and, on August 16, 1899, the cornerstone was set in place. On January 14, 1901 the new building, today's main library, was dedicated.

Physical expansion continued into the 1920s, and the main library itself was enlarged. The Depression, however, took its toll by curtailing any additional growth. It was not until 1962 that the library added a new building located at Five Corners. In recent years, the most important development in the library has been the introduction of automation. With the introduction of an online catalog, patrons can now search the collection from their homes as well as from a growing number of onsite computer terminals.

The Jersey City library was made out of Stony Creek granite, by buff brick Messrs Brite & Bacon, New York City architects, erected a plain, substantial structure of colonial design. It is four stories high, the main part of the building covers 48 x 190 feet of ground, and the stack-room, 34 X 38 feet, contains five floors of Library Bureau steel stacks.

The interior of the library building is finished and in use, but not all the carving planned by the architects for the exterior was completed. The first floor is designed that the keystone of each window head will in the future bear the name of an American famous in art, science, history, or poetry, while the now vacant niches are to be filled with busts of these honored countrymen.

The second story, circular disks of the oblong panels above the windows will have carved upon them book plates of publishers who have furthered the art of printing. In addition, names of men who have earned a place in literature will be cut into the frieze of the main cornice. Among the special features of the main reading-room on this floor are the racks beneath each window, filled with current magazines. This unique arrangement provides a mural decoration, and leaves the entire floor space for the use of readers. The private reading-room for women, the main catalog room and the children's catalog room, the wash-room, and the librarian's room, are all upon this floor, and all fittings have been most carefully chosen

The third floor largely devoted to the interests of students and to official needs. The trustees' room is finished in polished panels of California redwood, is conveniently fitted up with furnishings especially designed and executed by the Library Bureau.

The assistant librarian's room is suitably equipped with the best card indexes and labor-saving devices (those of the Library Bureau). The children's reading and reference rooms have tables and chairs graded in size.

The entrance floor has the newspaper file room, fitted up with special Library Bureau steel stacks. These stacks are supplied with roller shelves in which the bound volumes of the newspapers are put in on flat. The bicycle room, the staff lunch room, the

check room, and the law library are also upon this floor, as well as the wagon delivery room which feeds the 17 substations of the circulating system conveniently placed throughout the city.

The current state of economy has streamlined the budget and funding has become an issue. The Library Director Priscilla Gardner has said the city will only give the library $6 million this year to run its 10 branches. That is down from $7.7 million last year and below the $8 million she requested.

Under state law, the city must give the library $7.4 million, but that includes pension contributions for employees and the library's debt service, which the city pays.

Library patrons, staff members and representatives from the library's various programs asked the City Council to fully fund the budget.

Mary Quinn, principal librarian and manager of the Glenn D. Cunningham Branch, said the economy has placed an increased demand on libraries.  Municipal Funding Per Person for Library Service in Jersey City: $31.75. While the Projected Municipal Funding Per Person for Library Service in Jersey City: $24.74.











Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 October 2011 17:09  


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