The Scarsdale Library opened its doors in 1951 and will celebrate its 60th birthday on September 25 at noon. Festivities will include arts and crafts, games and story time for children as well as a look at the history of the library, which was twenty years in the making. The original Scarsdale Library opened in 1925 at Scarsdale High School, was moved to Wayside Cottage in 1928 and relocated into its new building in 1951, after the Depression, a World War and lots of fundraising to secure donations to finance the construction. On display at the library on September 25 will be historical documents and photos that shed light on the challenges the community faced in building this new resource.
The community is invited to celebrate on September 25th at noon at The Scarsdale Library at 54 Olmstead Road.
Here is a history of how the library in its current form came to be:
In 1925, Scarsdale residents John W. and Mary F. Dickinson gave 2,500 books to start a library and a $10,000 trust fund tomaintain them. The library was housed at Scarsdale High School. On February 28, 1928, the Village Board voted to establish the Scarsdale Public Library; two months later, it secured the right to assess a tax for library equipment and maintenance. On April 26, 1928, the Regents of the State of New York granted a charter incorporating the Library. The library opened at Wayside Cottage on October 28, 1928 at which time 100 residents raised $15,000 for services, materials and equipment.
In 1944 the Village Board endorsed the Town Club’s recommendation of a library site in the 11 acre Harwood Park north of the high school. It was agreed that part of the funds would be raised by public subscription; to this end the Friends of the Scarsdale Library was formed in May 1946. The Village set up a reserve fund for public buildings. The new library was its first project, but construction was not authorized until 1950.
The new building opened on September 30, 1951. The total cost was $316,900, of which the Village paid $207,303. Contributions accounted for the remainder, and included gifts from the Friends of the Library, the Junior League, the War Memorial Fund, and remaining funds from the Dickinson donation.
Twenty years later, it was determined that an addition was needed due to increases in the population of the Village, the number of cardholders and the size of the collection. A new wing, containing an additional 7,800 square feet, would increase the original size of the building of 11,700 square feet by 50%. The total cost of the addition, exclusive of a program room, was estimated at $775,000. On February 5, 1973, Scarsdale voters approved an $800,000 bond issue to be paid off in 20 years. The $180,000 cost of the program room was given impetus by the generous initial gift of the S. Spenser Scott family. Additional financial support came from the Scarsdale Foundation, the Friends of the Scarsdale Library and other Village organizations. In addition, over 300 individuals donated money to the project. Funding for a local history alcove came from the family of John K. Starkweather. The new addition was opened on June 22, 1975.
In 1981, a gift of $12,500 was given by George Jaffin to construct a conference room in the main part of the library.
In 1995, the Children’s Room was renovated, funded by a gift of $100,000 from Alfred and Luella Slaner. The room was named the Finney Children’s Room, in honor of Eleanor and Burnham Finney, long time volunteers on behalf of the library.
The main reading room, part of the 1975 addition, had been designed to include a mezzanine; however, it was not built at that time. In 1998, the mezzanine was added to the library, using a gift from Luella Slaner of $900.000. The original architect of the 1975 addition designed the project.
In 2007, the Reference Room was renovated, using a gift of $300,000 from the Virginia and Leonard Marx Foundation.