While no longer operating as a library, the Kingsbridge Branch still stands along Kingsbridge Avenue in the middle of the block between West 230th and West 231st Streets in the Bronx. Set back from the street on a long rectangular lot, it was one of the smallest of the Carnegie branch libraries to be constructed throughout the entire city, at just 3,700 square feet.
Built between 1904 and 1905, it was the fourth Carnegie branch library in the city to be designed by McKim, Mead & White and the third Carnegie branch library to be erected in the Bronx.
Land for the Kingsbridge Branch was given to the New York Public Library by Mr. and Mrs. James Douglass for $1. It was erected, including all equipment, for $22,821 and officially opened to the public on May 19, 1905.
The library was officially decommissioned in 1958, when a new larger branch was built at 280 West 231st Street. The former library currently houses the Spuyten Duyvil Infantry & Preschool and is not currently designated.
Construction and Layout:
The Kingsbridge Branch Library rises two stories over a brick foundation. It is deeply set back on an elevated rectangular lot with a brick retaining wall, surrounded by landscaped areas and a generous lawn. A cast iron fence separates the building from the sidewalk. It is rectangular in plan.
Like other Carnegies branch libraries, the Kingsbridge Branch is classically inspired. The principal façade is symmetrically divided into three bays. Walls are made of red brick with simple decorative limestone details. A wooden oversized pedimented entrance, now painted white, projects from the central bay of the first floor. Original multi-paned sidelights and transoms surrounding the entrance door have since been filled in and painted white.
Two stone steps lead from the sidewalk to a path that extends to a second set of five slate and rubble stone steps, which lead to the single wood paneled entrance door. Letters above the door once read: “NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY”.
The remaining bays house rectangular divided-light windows that were originally equipped with wooden shutters with lunette cutouts. Each window rests upon a simple limestone sill and is capped with a splayed limestone lintel that is characteristic of the Neo-Georgian style. A plain rectangular limestone panel is located above each of the windows. A limestone frieze surmounts a simple limestone cornice. A slightly overhanging pitched slate roof tops the building.
Patrons to the library went through the door of the pedimented entrance into a small wood paneled vestibule and then into the approximately 3,700 square foot circulation room beyond. This area housed the librarian’s station, stacks and reading areas for adults and children.
Although the building no longer functions as a library, a number of historic elements have been retained, including the original plaster ceiling with cornice molding and the window trim.
Photo courtesy of NYPL
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