Sunday, January 17, 2016

Bushwick's Carnegie Library

Small red brick Renaissance Revival style Library surrounded by large public housing buildings

Brooklyn Public Library - Bushwick Branch
Of the Robber Baron turned philanthropists of the late 1800s and early 1900s few had as much of an impact on civic architecture as Andrew Carnegie did. After selling his steel empire to J.P. Morgan, Carnegie turned his attention to philanthropy. One of his favorite charitable contributions was the building of public libraries. Carnegie would build a library for any city that demonstrated a need and was willing to stock, fund and staff the operation of the institution. A self made man of a poor immigrant family, Carnegie believed that libraries would allow the disadvantaged but industrious an opportunity to better their lives through self-education. Many of the architectural gems that were born out of that belief are still in existence today and continue to offer people the chance to expand their opportunities through learning.

Small red brick Renaissance Revival style Library surrounded by large public housing buildings
Brooklyn Public Library - Bushwick Branch
Entrance flanked by limestone Ionic columns with a limestone frieze and pediment above
Library Entrance
Closeup of limestone frieze with inscription and limestone arched pediment
Frieze & Arched Pediment Over Entrance
At one time Bushwick had two Carnegie libraries. The first one, designed in Classical Revival style by William B. Tubby, opened in 1905 on Dekalb Avenue. The Dekalb Branch still exists; however, the original Carnegie building has been replaced by a modernist structure. The Bushwick Branch retained its Classical Revival style Carnegie building, which was designed by architect Raymond F. Almiral. The branch first opened on the first floor of a church in 1903. The library moved to Bushwick Avenue and Seigel Street in 1908. Similar to many other Carnegie Libraries built in Brooklyn, the building is a freestanding structure constructed of brick with limestone details and features large windows to allow ample light for reading. The most prominent architectural embellishments are at the building’s entrance and include ionic columns, a frieze with “Brooklyn Public Library” inscribed in it and an arched pediment. 

This part of Bushwick is where I landed when I came to New York a decade ago. The area has little in the way of notable architecture in decent condition except for a few renovated warehouses. So, this little building was a welcome site every time I passed it.

  1. "The Men Who Built America" History Channel Documentary Series
  2. Bushwick Library
  3. Brian Merlis & Riccardo Gomes Brooklyn's Bushwick Gomerl Publishing, NJ 2012
  4. "The Brooklyn Carnegie Libraries" Historic Districts Council