Brownsville Library - Local History & Photos
With the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, an exodus of Jews began from the East side of Manhattan to the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, which became known as the New Jerusalem. In 1904, there were about 24,000 residents in Brownsville. By 1916, the Jewish population had increased to about 147,000, 90% of whom were Russian Jews. The first Brownsville Branch library was opened in 1905 on the second floor of the Alliance building after the Hebrew Educational Society donated its collection of 7,000 volumes. The library was heavily used from the start by the local population.
In December of 1908, the current Carnegie branch was opened on Glenmore Avenue in a neighborhood of one- to four-story wood and masonry houses. The 10,550 square foot building was designed by the firm of Lord & Hewlett. The simple two-story brick and limestone building was already overused upon opening. The first day's circulation was 3,000 volumes. The library was forced to limit the time that each user would spend finding books and using reference services. Due to this overcrowding, a second Carnegie branch was built in Brownsville in 1914. The Browsnville Children's Library, located on Stone Avenue, and now known as the Stone Avenue Branch, was the first library in the world dedicated to serving only children.
The library has been closed twice for construction. The first time the library closed in June of 1960 for rehabilitation and reopened in April of 1963. In September of 1986 the library was forced to close the branch when a truss supporting the roof had deflected and cracked. The branch reopened on July 6, 1989 with a completely rebuilt roof as well as new windows, shelving, lighting, ceiling, flooring, furniture and paint. Over the years several large public housing facilities have been built in Brownsville. The population is now primarily African-American and Hispanic, with Asian, East Indian and other nationalities also represented. Through its information resources and innovative programming, the Brownsville branch looks forward to serving this vital community into the 21st century.
The Brownsville community is known for its bustling shopping and business areas on Pitkin and Belmont Avenues.