Bronx Carnegie Library: Melrose Branch

New York Public Library, Melrose Branch

Entrance façade of the Melrose Branch Library, 2009, courtesy of HDC

Entrance façade of the Melrose Branch Library, 2009, courtesy of HDC

910 Morris Avenue

Bronx, New York 10451

Block: 2422, Lot: 1

Lot Area: approximately 5,525 sq. ft. (65’ x 85’)

Number of Floors: 2 (originally 4)

Building Area: approximately 9,000 sq. ft. (60’ x 80’)

Year built: 1914

Architect(s): Carrère & Hastings

Builder(s): Edwin Outwater

Designation: Not designated.

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DESCRIPTION:

Architectural Classification: Classical Revival

Materials:

Foundation: Granite

Walls: Brick

Other: Extensively renovated.

Summary:       

The Melrose Branch of the New York Public Library sits on a corner lot at the intersection of Morris Avenue and East 162nd Street among the low and mid-rise largely commercial buildings that typify the Melrose area of the South Bronx.

It is the tenth of thirteen Carnegie branch libraries to be designed by Carrère & Hastings and the fifth of the Carnegie branch libraries to be constructed in the borough of the Bronx. It has been in continuous operation since its opening on January 14, 1914.[1]

Extensive remodeling has destroyed much of the library’s historic fabric, making it appear today to be a mid-century modern structure.  Once an imposing classically-proportioned structure rising four stories to encompass nearly 29,000 square feet, the upper floors were removed as part of a rehabilitation project that was completed in 1959 and overseen by Bloch & Hesse Architects.[2]

As part of this rehabilitation, window and door openings were resized, original wooden windows were replaced and the principal street façades were refaced. There were also extensive renovations to the interior including the replacement of the original electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems.[3]

The cost of the site in 1914 was $20,000.  The library was erected for a total cost of $122,974.[4] It was the only Carnegie branch library to be constructed by the builder, Edwin Outwater. It is not currently designated.

Narrative Description:

Construction and Layout:

Once a four-story masonry structure, the upper half of the library was removed as a result of considerable remodeling that took place between 1957 and 1959.[5]  It is rectangular in plan with an off-set entrance in the northernmost bay of the Morris Avenue façade.  The original interior arrangement and circulation have been significantly modified.

Exterior:

The principal Morris Avenue and East 162nd Street facades are composed of red brick laid in a common bond with limestone trim and a granite base. The entrance façade is four bays wide with an offset entrance set within the northernmost bay that is accessed by ascending two shallow concrete steps. Non-historic aluminum double doors with circular windows and a large rectangular transom above serve as the principal entrance. It is framed by a thick rectangular non historic concrete surround. Centered above the entrance is a historic rectangular limestone panel inscribed: “NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY”.

Library patrons originally entered through double wood and glazed paneled doors, with a round-arched transom above. The original entrance surround was composed of a brick soldier course and outlined by a running header course. The doors were embellished with brass hardware and flanked by a pair of brass light fixtures.

The granite base of the library is interrupted by three rectangular divided light windows with splayed brick lintels that sit at grade. Windows of the second story are also rectangular and are larger than those of the first story. All of the original wooden windows were replaced with aluminum ones during the renovations of the 1950s. A simple limestone stringcourse sits atop a running header course above the windows of the second story. It is surmounted by fourteen rows of non-historic brick and capped by a non-historic coping.

A third and fourth story – slightly recessed over the entrance bay – once topped limestone stringcourse of the second story. Three large round-arched divided light windows were rhythmically spaced across the third story.  Like the entrance, these windows were framed by simple brick surrounds composed of a single soldier course and a running header course. Within the recessed bay was centered a small rectangular divided light window with a simple limestone sill at each story.

Windows of the fourth floor repeated the shape and size of those of the first and sat upon simple limestone sills. They were surmounted by a thick limestone stringcourse that wrapped the principal facades.  The building was topped by a substantial articulated limestone cornice with brick parapet above and limestone coping.

Interior:

Upon entering the building, patrons find themselves in a small entrance hall that contains the original circulation stair with decorative cast iron rails, wooden railing and marble steps beyond which is a generous and open reading room.

In addition to the stairs, the library retains many of its original elements including some portions of the marble floor and areas of the plaster ceiling. In the second floor reading room, the original beams survive, as well as the plaster-faced columns with molded capitals that have been painted a non-historic yellow color.

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PHOTOS:

 http://hdc.org/hdc-across-nyc/bronx/the-bronx-carnegie-libraries/carnegie-library-tremont-branch/photos

 

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


[1] Dierickx, Mary B., The Architecture of Literacy: The Carnegie Libraries of New York City. New York: The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art and The New York City Department of General Services. 1996. Pp. 112-113.

[2] Bloch & Hesse Architects worked on a number of the city’s branch libraries throughout the 1950s and 60s.

[3] “2 Library Branches Closed for Repairs”, The New York Times, July 28, 1987.

[4] Dierickx, Mary B., The Architecture of Literacy: The Carnegie Libraries of New York City. New York: The Cooper Union for Advancement of Science and Art and The New York City Department of General Services. 1996. Pp. 112-113.

 

[5] “2 Library Branches Closed for Repair’, The New York Times, July 28, 1957.

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