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Repairs overdue at Carnegie libraries

Literary twist: Brooklyn Public Library officials plan to sell off the historic Pacific branch building on Fourth Avenue and replace the 1903 structure — put up by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie — with a new facility inside a planned 32-story skyscraper several blocks away.
Community Newspaper Group / Natalie Musumeci

Industrialist Andrew Carnegie bequeathed Brooklyn with 21 libraries in a bout of philanthropy that forever changed the borough’s literary landscape — but more than a century later, library officials say the aging Carnegie branches are a struggle to maintain, a challenge to operate, and, in the case of the Pacific branch, better used as a real estate play than a cultural hub.

As activists rally to save the first borough library funded by the steel magnate from the threat of the wrecking ball, we whipped up this report on the state of the borough’s Carnegie branches, based on information from library trustees and details about the buildings from author Mary Dierickx’s “The Architecture of Literacy: The Carnegie Libraries of New York City,” which this reporter checked out of the Brooklyn Heights branch — a newer 1962 library building that officials also hope to sell.

At risk:

Pacific branch

Opened: Oct. 8, 1903

Condition: Poor

Needs: $11-million roof restoration, access improvements for the disabled, new furniture and equipment, heating, ventilation, air conditioning system, boiler work, interior renovation, exterior restoration, window replacement, security and fire safety upgrades

Details: This Classical Revival-style building opened on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope as Brooklyn’s original Carnegie library and boasted a first-of-its-kind kid’s reading room.

Landmarked:

Williamsburgh branch

Opened: Jan. 28, 1905

Condition: Good

Needs: $1.5 million for new windows, landscaping, fence restoration and sidewalk work

Details: The two-story red brick building on Division Avenue is the largest of the borough’s Carnegie’s and earned landmark status in 2005.

Dekalb branch

Opened: Feb. 11, 1905

Condition: Fair

Needs: $4.6 million for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system work, exterior renovation, safety and security enhancement, basement renovation, window replacement and window restoration

Details: This two-story brick and limestone library on Bushwick Avenue became a landmark in 2004.

Park Slope branch

Opened: July 30, 1906

Condition: Good

Needs: $2.8 million for boiler and duct work, skylight restoration, roof replacement, masonry work, exterior fence restoration

Details: The landmarked Sixth Avenue building, which underwent a complete renovation last year, has a monumental entrance adorned with four grand Doric columns.

Not landmarked

Bedford branch

Opened: Feb. 4, 1905

Condition: Good

Needs: $1.7 million for a new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, replacement of windows

Details: Franklin Avenue’s Bedford-Stuyvesant branch opened in 1897 in a nearby schoolhouse in a cornfield before it moved to its current home in a brick building with stone trim.

Carroll Gardens branch

Opened: Mar. 3, 1905

Condition: Poor

Needs: $5.4 million for exterior renovation, boiler work, interior renovation, new furniture and equipment, safety and security enhancement, window replacement

Details: With vaulted ceilings and an entrance adorned with massive brick Ionic columns, this one-story Classical Revival building went by the name the Carroll Park branch until 1973.

Flatbush branch

Opened: Oct. 7, 1905

Condition: Poor

Needs: $1.4 million for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work, additional restoration work, fire alarm system

Details: This Linden Boulevard library was originally two stories and was completely redesigned with an additional floor in 1937.

Arlington branch

Opened: Nov. 7, 1906

Condition: Poor

Needs: $5.1 million for exterior renovation, boiler work, interior renovation, new furniture and equipment, plumbing system

Details: The two-story Classical Revival style red brick building in Cypress Hills with stone trim still has its interior natural oak trim intact.

Macon branch

Opened: July 15, 1907

Condition: Good

Needs: $573,000 for rear wall work

Details: Large reading rooms and smaller nooks containing original fireplaces and wooden benches define this Lewis Avenue facility.

Fort Hamilton branch

Opened: Oct. 7, 1907

Condition: Good

Newest branch: The Brooklyn Public Library’s $14.9 million Kensington branch on 18th Avenue officially opened last year and library officials say its design should be the model for future libraries.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Needs: None

Details: Bay Ridge’s freshly renovated two-story Classic Revival-style library has a hipped roof and one of its two original fireplaces.

Walt Whitman branch

Opened: Sept. 1, 1908

Condition: Poor

Needs: $6.4 million for boiler work, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, interior renovation, new furniture and equipment, exterior renovation, safety and security enhancement, roof replacement

Details: Before getting its Carnegie digs, this branch debuted on Nassau and Bridge streets in 1900, and in 1943 took on the name of the famous borough poet.

Saratoga branch

Opened: Sept. 3, 1908

Condition: Poor

Needs: $2.6 million for interior renovation, abatement, and new furniture and equipment

Details: The Hopkinson Avenue building has a stone base and a distinctive Spanish tile roof.

Leonard branch

Opened: Dec. 1, 1908

Condition: Poor

Needs: $6.1 million to for disabled accessibility, facade restoration, roof work, window restoration, interior restoration, new furniture and equipment, safety and security enhancement

Details: Several architectural renovations have modernized the interior of Williamsburg’s 104-year-old Devoe Street structure.

Bushwick branch

Opened: Dec. 16, 1908

Condition: Fair

Needs: $4.7 million for exterior and interior rehabilitation, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, new furniture and equipment, new roof, safety and security enhancement

Details: This branch got the Carnegie treatment after a previous location in the first floor of a church burned down.

Brownsville branch

Opened: Dec. 19, 1908

Condition: Poor

Needs: $4.5 million for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, interior renovation, new furniture and equipment, façade rehab, safety and security enhancement

Details: Two iconic columns at its entrance give this Glemore Avenue building a stately look.

Eastern Parkway branch

Opened: July 7, 1914

Condition: Poor

Needs: $6.5 million for arched window rehabilitation, first and second floor renovation, hazardous material abatement, new furniture and equipment, and chimney stack restoration

Details: It’s no Central Branch, but this Crown Heights facility has prominent arched windows, a stone facade, and an original reading nook.

Stone Avenue branch

Opened: Sept. 24, 1914

Condition: Good

Needs: $1.3 million for new windows and doors, limestone facade rehabilitation, safety and security enhancement, side entry steps

Details: Brownsville’s Jacobethan-style brick building is different from the borough’s other Carnegie’s with two prominent entrances, and was once devoted entirely to children’s literature.

Washington Irving branch

Opened: May 16, 1923

Condition: Poor

Needs: $5.3 million for exterior and interior renovation, new furniture and equipment, safety and security enhancement, boiler work, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system

Details: This Bushwick facility is the last Carnegie branch built in the borough and it boasts a unique gabled roof.

Dead

Greenpoint branch

Opened: April 7, 1906

Closed: Shut down in 1944 due to a manpower shortage and demolished in 1970 to be replaced in 1973 with a one-story building on the same site.

Red Hook branch

Opened: April 22, 1915

Closed: A 1945 fire destroyed Brooklyn’s only Carnegie library built in Mediterranean Revival style.

South branch

Opened: Dec. 5, 1905

Closed: Razed in 1970 after library officials declared the Sunset Park facility obsolete and replaced it with a branch on the same site in 1972.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at nmusumeci@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

Rare restoration: The landmarked Park Slope library branch on Sixth Avenue had a complete renovation last year, but it is still in need of nearly $3 million in repairs, according to library officials.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

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