Bronx Carnegie Library: Morrisania Branch

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

610 East 169th Street, Bronx.

CLIENT: New York Public Library

ARCHITECT: Babb, Cook & Willard

DATE: 1907-1908

STYLE: Classical Revival

Carnegie Library Morrisania

Designated June 16, 1998.

The Morrisania Branch of the New York Public Library sits at the center of a semi-triangular lot between Franklin Avenue and Boston Road along the curve of the south side of 169th Street across from Beatty Plaza in the Bronx.

Originally called the “McKinley Square Branch Library”[1] after the nearby public square, the Morrisania Library has continuously served the Morrisania community since its opening over a century ago. Built between 1907 and 1908, it is the fourth branch library to be constructed in the Bronx and the twenty-eighth of the Carnegie-branch libraries to be erected in New York City.

Designed by Babb, Cook & Willard, architects of eight other Carnegie Libraries, the library is classically-inspired and imposing, typifying the public buildings constructed at the turn of the 20th century throughout New York City.

The land was financed by Marie M. Mantel ($20,000), Paulina W. Goeltz ($15,000), and Mr. and Mrs. William S. Sinclair ($13,500) in 1906. The library was constructed at a total cost of $108,482.76.[2]

The Morrisania Branch of the New York Public Library was designated an individual New York City landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1996.

Construction and Layout:

Rising two-stories and set over a raised basement, this symmetrical Classical Revival style building is a masonry and stone construction in a tripartite scheme and T-shaped in plan. A central entrance leads to a large open room containing the librarian’s station, which is centered between two large reading areas.


The main north façade is composed of red brick, laid in Flemish bond that sits upon a pink Milford granite base with contrasting Indiana limestone details. It is five bays wide with a projecting limestone entrance at its center. The porticoed entrance features flat pilasters, a semi-circular transom, prominent keystone and paneled parapet. Above the entrance, is a large decorative limestone panel featuring the seal of the City of New York. Flanking the main façade are two lower recessed wings that contain the secondary entrances to the library and accommodate two small lawns that are enclosed by a short wrought-iron fence with granite base and posts.

Large divided-light arched windows are rhythmically placed along the main façade and each is capped with a limestone key. The side wings and side elevations have flat-topped windows on the first floor. All second-story windows sit upon paneled limestone spandrels. A contrasting limestone beltcourse separates the first and second stories. The building is topped by a limestone cornice embellished by an egg and dart molding and dentil course, with a brick and limestone parapet above.

The library was first modified in 1913 when three rear basement windows were lowered and brick window wells were built. Between 1995 and 1996, the original wooden entrance door and original wooden windows along the first floor were replaced with aluminum ones. At this time, the branch underwent extensive rehabilitations, including the reorganization of the ground floor, upgrading of finishes, woodwork and HVAC systems as well as the addition of an accessibility ramp for the disabled. The work was overseen by architects DCI International, for which they received an Art Commission award.


Patrons to the library enter on the first floor into a generous oak-paneled vestibule. Beyond the vestibule is a large open room containing the librarian’s station and circulation desk, which is bordered by two spacious reading areas.

The library retains many of its original features including a number of the original wooden bookshelves, the cast iron staircase and irregular plaster-faced columns with molded capitals. Original beams remain intact yet are partially concealed beneath sections of dropped ceilings and non historic mechanical systems.

[1] 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 Services. 1996, pp. 114-115.

[2] Direickx, 115.

STATUS Designated Individual Landmark

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The historic township of Morrisania became residential area in the late 19th Century. The development of Morrisania began in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, as a result of the New York & Harlem Railroad connecting Manhattan and the Bronx in the 1840s and the opening of...

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