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Stone Avenue Library - Local History & Photos
During the early part of the century, Brownsville (known as the Jerusalem of America) was a crowded neighborhood of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The Stone Avenue Branch was one of the later Carnegie branches, constructed to relieve overcrowding at the nearby Brownsville Branch. The Stone Avenue Branch officially opened on September 24, 1914. Originally named the Brownsville Childrens Library, it was the first public library in the world devoted to serving children. The branch was visited by librarians from around the world interested in learning about how to set up a children's library.
Alfred Kazin, the celebrated literary critic and Brownsville native, fondly remembers his visits to the branch in his classic memoir Walker in the City: In the long peaceful reading room there were storybook tiles over the fireplace deep and covered wooden benches on each side of it where I read my way year after year from every story of King Alfred the Great to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Today the branch serves both adults and children, although many of the features that distinguished the branch as a place for children remain. Built with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie and designed by architect William B. Tubby in the Jacobethan style, some of the original architectural details still remain, including the Rookwood storybook tiles of the fireplace and the original carved wooden benches with rabbit-head finials.
The branch's current neighbors include the Van Dyke, Tilden, Brownsville, Howard and Seth Low Houses. Its patrons are now primarily African American with a significant West Indian population, and the branch serves the children of several local schools and day care centers.
Rosetta Gaston (1885-1981), or Mother Gaston, was an activist who devoted her life to community work and teaching Black children about their heritage. She founded "Heritage House" for the young and old of the Brownsville community, located on the third floor of the Stone Avenue Branch.