The online exhibit can also be viewed at the renovated Carnegie Library building
Transcriptions of Documents confirming the early existence of a library in Nyack
The Nyack Library local history collection (#46 Flat Files)
January 22 1819
This is to certify that Abraham D B Cornelison is entitles to one
share in the Nyack Library established and incorporated according to a
Law of the state of New York – by Order of the Trustees
Tunis Smith Secretary
Another fragment in same frame:
Certificate of a share in the Nyack Library for ADM
C. T. Smith
M. L. Salisbury
Eleanor L. Westervelt
Transcriptions of Document confirming the early existence of a library in Nyack
1796 (#47 flat files - The Nyack Local history collection)
To all to whom these presents shall come – The Trustees of the Orange Town Library send greeting - Know ye that the said Trustees do hereby admit Teunis I Smith to be a member of the Corporation of the said Library, and that he is entitled to one share in the property thereof – In witness whereof the said Trustees have caused their common seal to be here unto affixed this fifth day of
July One Thousand seven hundred ninety & six. –
By order of the Trustees
Advertisement for Circulating Library
in Rockland County Journal, September 10, 1853
The early libraries were not free to the people, they required a subscription.
Library’s First Home
#0875 The Nyack Library local history collection
This building, with a large sign saying “News Office,” was the first home of the Nyack Library when it was organized on January 13, 1879. The owner, John Haeselbarth served as librarian. The first books came from a small collection at the YMCA, which had floundered financially. Membership in the library association with the right to vote and hold office was $1. If you wished to borrow books, an additional yearly fee of $1 was required.
Ackerman & Dutcher, photographers
#2009 The Nyack Library local history collection
From 1885 to 1903, the Nyack Library was in a store at 79 South Broadway. When the trustees decided to move the library from its former location, they wanted a place “where there could be light and sunshine, and a free reading room as an added inducement.” The store later became a dry cleaning business.
Storefront Library, Interior
Ackerman & Dutcher, photographers
The Nyack Library moved to this store on South Broadway in 1885. Librarian Emma Thorburn earned $15.50 a month. There were 3000 volumes in the collection by 1893 and David Copperfield was the most popular novel. While in this location, the library became a "free library," supported by taxes.
Grenville Dean Wilson
#2015 The Nyack Library local history collection
Grenville Dean Wilson was a music teacher at the Rockland Female Institute. During the time he lived in Nyack, he taught piano, composed for the piano, organized choral groups and conducted them. He was very active in his community. But he and his wife, Josephine Emery, noticed a gap. There was no library for Nyackers. So during the 1870s, Wilson headed up fundraisers and collected books - even driving around the village in horse and buggy - to start a subscription library. When that was incorporated into "The Nyack Library" in 1890, Wilson was selected as the first president. He left a legacy of music, literature, and public service to his beloved Nyacks.
Barn on Broadway before the Library, circa 1899
The Nyack Evening Star of 12/01/1902 interviewed a "Nyack antiquarian" on the history of the site. He recalled: “Here were the barns, granaries, and outbuildings of the DePew farm for over a hundred years, for it was about that length of time since Petrus DePew came and bought the strip of land lying between what is now Cedar Hill avenue and a line passing from the river up north of the Presbyterian Church. At that time there was a grist mill at the foot of Hudson Avenue, and what is now Hudson Avenue between the factory and Broadway was a narrow road leading up and passing the school house, going west. The brook which runs on the north side of Hudson avenue was then a large and rapid stream, dashing down in a waterfall through a deep hollow...Every time the street was made wider the barns came nearer the street and it will be remembered that only a few years ago one of these buildings was cut off to make room for the sidewalk.”
Andrew Carnegie, 1905
Courtesy of the Library of Congress
James Bertram, Andrew Carnegie’s personal secretary who handled almost all of the correspondence related to the funding of library buildings, responded to Library Board President Howard Van Buren in December 1902, saying that Carnegie would contribute $15,000 for a library building in Nyack "if the community of Nyack will furnish a suitable site and pledge itself by resolution of councils to support a library at a cost of not less than $1,500 a year." It was always Carnegie's intention that the communities he offered library buildings to fund these libraries themselves and he required communities to promise support of 10% of his total gift per year. Carnegie said: “Free libraries maintained by the people are cradles of democracy, and their spread can never fail to extend and strengthen the democratic idea, the equality of the citizen, and the royalty of man. They are emphatically fruits of the true American ideal.”
Library Cornerstone Laying, 1903
“He must be a strange American who does not feel his heart beat a little stronger and faster in response to occasions such as this,” stated Rev. R.H. Herron, Pastor of the 1st Presbyterian Church, at the ceremony marking the laying of the cornerstone. He continued: “many of us have learned that school days are short. Even at the best and longest they are soon spent. Then the intellect must find new mines in which to delve, new fountains from which to drink refreshment. It is at this point that the value of books is most accurately estimated. It is here that men really discover the necessity of a library, their own, their neighbor’s or their town’s. Far up among God’s many good gifts to us, therefore, is this, that though many long years of discovery and invention He now grants, the high privilege of a quiet place in which to acquaint himself with the best thoughts of the wisest men put forth in the most perfect forms of expression which they could command.”
Library Cornerstone Laid
May 21, 1903
#2008 The Nyack Library Local History collection
President of the Nyack Library Board, Howard Van Buren, made the opening remarks at this event. He opened the ceremony by saying: “In the earnest hope that the Nyack Library will ever contribute to the instruction, entertainment and welfare of this place, I now declare this corner stone to be well and truly laid.”
Nyack Library Cornerstone, 2003
The following is a list of a few of the articles which were placed into the cornerstone: “Nyack Evening Journal.”; “Nyack Evening Star.”; "Orangetown News.”; "New York Tribune.”; “New York Times.”; “New York Sun.”; Village Directory of Public Officers and Institutions.; Illustrated article on Nyack published in the “New York Tribune, Oct. 5, 1902.”; Sunday newspaper clippings relating to the Library.; Sketch of early history of the Library by Mrs. G.D. Wilson.; Statistics of the Library since its incorporation, Sept. 6, 1890.;
Programme of the Musicale given by the ladies of the Thursday Reading Class, May 15, 1903.; Time-table of the Northern Railroad of New Jersey.; Photo of Andrew Carnegie.; Photo of the late Prof. G.D. Wilson.; Photo of S.R. Bradley, first President of the Library Association.; Postage stamps, present issue, 1, 2, 4, 5, and 10 cent denominations.
One dollar note of Nyack National Bank.; Coins of 1903, $1, 50c., 25c., 10c., 5c., 1c.; The American flag.
The Original Carnegie Room
#2005 The Nyack Library Local History collection
In 1904, the oak woodwork and flooring of the Carnegie Room were gleaming. The circulation desk faced the main entrance and the books were on shelves behind the desk. The total cost of the library was $15,597, almost $600 more than the gift of Andrew Carnegie. The cost of the furniture for the building was $950. The architects were the Emery Brothers and Mr. J. B. Simonson. The mason contractor was John M. Rooney. The carpentry was done by E.H. DeBaun. Plumbing and gas fitting was done by A.L. Henry. Painting and decorating was done by Hill and Hubbell.
When the Library was New
#2003 The Nyack Library local history collection
The library building is complete, but the landscaping is not. Boards on the ground lead to the side entrance. There’s a little snow, so we know it was either early or late winter. The house on the left is still the library’s neighbor, Wright Brothers Real Estate.
Upper Nyack Boulder
#4100 The Nyack Library Local History collection
This huge boulder on the Upper Nyack shore was subsequently moved to The Nyack Library. The weight of the boulder is 10 tons. 18 horses and over 100 men were needed to move the boulder up the hill from the river to the library.
Local Civil War veterans gather at the unveiling of the Lincoln Boulder
June 13, 1908
#0872 The Nyack Library local history collection
The local members of the Waldron Post of the Grand Army of the Republic pose with the newly dedicated boulder. The children on Nyack raised money for the plaque which contains the text of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Read more about the Lincoln Boulder in the original dedication publication, now online at:
Dedication of the Lincoln Memorial Boulder
June 13, 1908
The dedication of the Lincoln Memorial Boulder was one of the great events in the history of The Nyack Library. The children of Nyack raised money for the boulder to be moved up from the Hudson River and the plaque to be inscribed with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The keynote address at the dedication was given by Judge Arthur S. Tompkins. Tompkins stated: “this day will be memorable in the history of Nyack cause it witnesses the dedication of a memorial which will stand as long as heaven permits the works of man to last, to speak to coming generations of our loyalty to our country and our devotion to its institutions, and our gratitude to those whose patriotism and sacrifices bequeathed to us and our posterity the rich heritage of a free and united country- a monument whose unadorned grandeur and massive solidarity is a fit emblem both of the events in memory of which it is raised and the reverence and gratitude of those who have placed it here.”
President Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert, wrote this letter thanking the children of Nyack for their donations.
Nyack Public Library, Nyack on Hudson, NY
#3164 The Nyack Library local history collection
The sender of this postcard (he didn't sign his name) says "Not Carnegie - but 'twas I who donated this library." The card was addressed to Mrs. J. W. Hesse, 1474 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.
Lawn Party on site of Present Post Office
#2001 The Nyack Library Local History collection
Wearing long dresses and large, flowered hats, a group of women have tea on the site of the Nyack Post Office. A maid stands on the left and two children are seated on the ground. The Nyack Library is in the background.
One of the many early postcards of the Nyack Library.
Another postcard of the library
Helen Powell Receives Books
January 11, 1954
# 1519 from The Nyack Library local history collection
Miss Helen Powell, long-time librarian at Nyack, receiving two books on African-American history, given to the library by the Monday Evening Study Group at a history program held by the club on Friday evening in St. Philip's A. M. E. Zion Church, Nyack. The presentation is being made by Mrs. Hilda Bryant, club librarian.
Honoring Florence Halstead
#2639 The Nyack Library local history collection
Florence Halstead, an assistant librarian at The Nyack Library for at least 50 years, is honored by Helen Bryant, library director (on left) and an unidentified woman. They’re standing by one of the pillars in the Carnegie Room. Miss Halstead died in 1962.
Betty Brock, Beloved Children's Librarian for many years
#2610 from The Nyack Library local history collection
Nyack Library construction
#4613 The Nyack Library local history collection
This image of the beginning stages of the 1973 Nyack Library construction is labeled, "Early Steel." This was the first addition to the original 1903 Carnegie building.
The 1993 Addition to the Nyack Library
#2631 The Nyack Library local history collection
In 1993, the Nyack Library was enlarged considerably by extending out towards the east and up and above the existing structure.
Groundbreaking for the Library Expansion
June 30, 2007
Officials break ground at the site of the library expansion. Shown from left to right are: Library Board President Roger Seiler, Library Director James Mahoney, Nyack Mayor John Shields, Supervisor of the Town of Orangetown Thom Kleiner, New York State Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, architect and Upper Nyack Mayor Michael Esmay.
The New Library Wing from the Southeast
John Putre, photographer
The New Library Wing
John Putre, photographer
The New Reference Section
John Putre, photographer
The New Children's Room
John Putre, photographer