Bronx Carnegie Library: Fordham Branch

New York Public Library, Fordham Branch

Fordham Branch Library, original entrance façade along Bainbridge Avenue, c. 1923, courtesy of NYPL

2556 Bainbridge Avenue

Bronx, New York 10548

Block: 3286, Lot: 14

LotArea: approximately 10,868 sq. ft. (76’ x 143’)

Number of Floors: 2

Building Area: approximately 20,000 sq. ft. (50’ x 100’)

Year built: 1923

Architect(s): McKim, Mead & White

Builder(s): William L. Crow Construction Company

Designation: Not designated.

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DESCRIPTION:

Architectural Classification: Georgian Revival

Materials:

Foundation: Brick

Walls: Brick

Other: Limestone quoins

Summary:       

The Fordham Branch of the New York Public Library was in operation since opening in 1923 until 2005. It is situated on an L-shaped lot between Bainsbridge Avenue, Marion Avenue, East Fordham Road and East 193rd Street in the Bronx. Like many other Carnegie branch libraries, it is classically inspired with Georgian decorative details. After an expansion in 1955, it became the largest library in the Bronx and remained so until its closing.

Designed by preeminent New York architectural firm McKim, Mead and White, architects of eleven other Carnegie branch libraries, the Fordham Branch Library was the forty-third of the Carnegie libraries to be constructed throughout the city and the eighth to be constructed in the Bronx. Upon its opening in the summer of 1923, it contained the largest auditorium of any branch in the city.[1]

The total cost of the site, building and equipment was $165,000.[2] An additional $25,000 was appropriated for books.[3]

In November 2005, the Fordham Branch of the New York Public Library closed its doors and moved its materials to the new Bronx Library Center, which opened in January 2006 and located just two blocks away. It is not currently designated.

Narrative Description:

Construction and Layout:

The Fordham Branch of the New York Public Library is a two-story masonry structure that sits on a raised brick base. It is L-shaped in plan and built up to the lot line, stretching the length between Bainbridge and Marion Avenues.

Exterior:

Exterior walls are clad in Harvard brick with modest Indiana limestone trim. The main Bainbridge Avenue façade is five bays wide. On the first floor windows alternate between three large arched and two smaller rectangular divided-lights that rest upon a limestone stringcourse. Above each of the rectangular windows sits a plain rectangular limestone panels. Windows on the second floor are rectangular and rest upon simple limestone sills with simple articulated brick surrounds. All windows are divided-light and double-hung. A limestone frieze above the second story is inscribed “NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY”.

The Bainbridge Avenue entrance to the library is located at grade within the northernmost bay and embellished by a thick limestone surround. Brick corner quoins extend up to the frieze and end in paneled limestone capitals. A brick cornice with limestone details tops the building.

The first alteration to the library took place in 1931 when the grand auditorium was converted into the Bronx Reference Center, accessed by a new entrance at the rear of the building on Marion Avenue.[4] As part of a WPA project between 1936 and 1937, the library was expanded to take up the entire rear yard so that it stretched entire lengthwise of the lot.[5] In 1955, a second wing was added along Marion Avenue, doubling the rear façade.[6] It was designed by Samuel J. Kessler & Sons Architects.[7]

Interior:

Upon entering the main entrance of the library, visitors originally took a short stair up to a large open room, which contained the librarian’s station. Beyond the station were two large adult circulations and a reference areas organized around the windows in order to maximize natural light for reading. The second story contained reading and reference rooms for children.

Many of the library’s historic features remain, including the original beams and portions of the decorative plaster trim. The building is no longer open to the public.

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Photographs:

http://hdc.org/hdc-across-nyc/bronx/carneigie-libraries-fordham-pics 

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•To read the full list of each Carnegie Library in the Bronx click here 


[1] “New Bronx Library Opened”, The New York Times. September 23, 1923, 8.

[2] “New Bronx Library Opened”, The New York Times, September 23, 1923. 8.

[3] New Bronx Library Opened”, The New York Times, September 23, 1923. 8.

[4] “Reference Center to Help Student”. New York Times, January 11, 1931.

[5] “2556 Bainbridge Ave.”. Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project Photo. September 24, 1936. NYPL Image ID: 700441B.

[6] “Library To Reopen Fordham Branch”, New York Times, August 5, 1956.

[7] Dierickx, Mary, B. The Architecture of Literacy: The Carnegie Libraries of New York City. New York: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art and the New York City Department of General Servcies. 1996.  104-105.

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