The Carnegie Public Library

July 2006 will mark the 105th anniversary of the opening of the first public library building in the city of Bradford. Formed by the consolidation of two other library collections in Bradford (the School Library and the Free Library on Congress Street), the Carnegie Library was located on the corner of Corydon and Congress Streets, and formally dedicated on July 1, 1901.

The Free Library had been operated by the Bradford Library Association, which was established in 1879, and for the past 22 years had managed a reading room on Congress Street. It owned about 3,000 volumes. All these books were transferred to the new Carnegie Library when it was built. The city school district library also had about 3,800 books that were transferred to the new building.

The lot on which the new library building was built was donated by the City of Bradford. It had formerly been the site of the second City Hall building which was built in 1883 then destroyed by fire in 1894. For a time, the city considered building a central fire station on the vacant lot, but eventually relented, and gave the property to the Library Association.

The Bradford Era wrote: "The dedicatory services were held at the Baptist Church, and although the heat was oppressive, the edifice was well filled. Seated on the rostrum were the trustees of the library, and those who were to participate in the evening's exercises. Jamison's Orchestra played the opening overture. Chairman A.C. Hawkins in a brief address congratulated the trustees and people of the city - Secretary Cody read a number of congratulatory telegrams and letters, including one from Andrew Carnegie, and made a formal announcement of the gifts to the library as follows: S.P. Kennedy, $500; T.H. Kennedy, $500; C.P. Collins $500; S.R. Dresser, $500; L. Hamsher, $500, Mrs. L. Emery, 100 volumes of books for the reference library, value $500; G.H. Potter, Histories of the Civil War; E.A. Boyne, Pennsylvania Archives; E.C. Jones, 50 volumes; Women's Literary Club, hall clock; Jewish Women's Club, water cooler. S.R. Dresser, chairman of the Building Committee, in a pithy speech, presented the keys of the library to Library Association President R.B. Stone, who then informed the audience that he was in receipt of a letter from Mr. Carnegie in which the gift of $25,000 had been increased to $30,000.

Fully 1,000 people attended the opening and inspected the interior of the new structure. At the head of the stairway leading into the new building was a foyer containing the librarian's office. The children's reading room was on the right, and the reference library at the left of this apartment. The reading room, which faced on Corydon Street, and the apartment containing the major portion of the books were both large, spacious rooms, elegantly furnished with modern library equipment. They were fully stocked with books, magazines, and papers. The interior decorations were of a green color in oil, which ensured their durability, the woodwork being finished in a natural color."

Nearly eighty-eight years later, however, a lack of space, limited handicap access, scarce parking availability, the high cost of heating, and major structural repairs forced a tough decision. The Library was closed, and a more modern one built on West Washington Street in 1991. The Carnegie Library was not closed quietly, however; loyal and sentimental supporters of the old building resisted its closing and resented its new location with vocal and written protests. Eventually, people began to accept the new Bradford Area Public Library and today the library is still a favorite place for bibliophiles.

Today, the Carnegie Library, with its "Free to the People" inscribed over the entrance, lives on as a popular restaurant and meeting place.