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History of the Bryant Library

THE BRYANT LIBRARY is the oldest continuing library in Nassau County.


THE HALL: Photo of William Cullen Bryant

June 18, 1874: Noted poet and journalist, William Cullen Bryant, writes in a letter that he is laying a foundation for a Reading Room and Lecture Hall in Roslyn - "for the people have no places to meet in the evening save in the bar rooms."

July 4, 1876: Centennial Celebration Committee "Programme of Exercises at the Hall, Roslyn, L.I." (Earliest document in library collection recording an event at The Hall.)

June 12, 1878: Death of William C. Bryant.

November 13, 1878: Public Meeting held and a joint stock company formed "for the purpose of forming, continuing and perpetuating a Circulating Library" under the provisions of an 1853(?) NYS Act for the Incorporation of Library Companies. Corporate Name to be: The Bryant Circulating Library Association.

January 1, 1879: Julia Bryant (daughter of William C. Bryant) in accord with Bryant's intentions, deeded (for $1.00) the property and building to the Bryant Circulating Library Association. An 1882 book (The History of Queens County by Munsell) reports that the value of Julia's gift was $15,000 and that "The Hall was divided into apartments for library and reading room, a public hall and a residence for the librarian who has care of the building."

December 1924: Trustees of the Roslyn Neighborhood Association Library vote to merge the Neighborhood Association library with the Bryant Circulating Library Association.

November 18, 1925: Certificate of Registration granted for the Bryant Circulating Library by the Regents of the University of the State of New York.

April 20, 1945: Provisional Charter for incorporation granted for the Bryant Library by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

1946: Original Bryant Library building, on the west side of Bryant Avenue, is condemned and later demolished by New York State to make way for the viaduct over Hempstead Harbor. Pillars for the 1949 Viaduct are erected on the site of the original building. Storefront branch library is opened on Garden Street, Roslyn Heights.

April 20 21, 1950: Absolute Charter granted to the Bryant Library by the Board of Regents on behalf of the Education Department of the State of New York.

1951: Roslyn War Memorial Building (and Valentine House) transferred by the Roslyn Neighborhood Association to the Bryant Library.

March 1952: Bryant Library moves into its new home in the Roslyn War Memorial Building on East Broadway.

June 1953: Bryant Library Local History Collection established.


ROSLYN WAR MEMORIAL BUILDING:

June 1919: Roslyn Neighborhood Association begins a campaign to erect a War Memorial Building on their property, next to their headquarters in Valentine House. Intended to honor those who fought in WWI, it was designed by Frederick M. Godwin, great-grandson of William C. Bryant for the firm of Hoppin & Koen and funded solely by community support.

October 24, 1920: Laying of the Cornerstone of the War Memorial Building.

October 2, 1921: War Memorial Building dedicated. Building was used as a community center and rented out to local organizations. At times the building housed pool tables, a rifle range, a bowling alley and a basketball court. Plays, dances and other entertainments were held in the Memorial Building.

1929: Board of Directors meeting reports a discussion about the need for additional parking.

1935: Memorial Building is leased by Charles Hopkins, a New York City theatrical producer, for use as a playhouse named the Theatre of the Four Seasons.

1937: Theatre of the Four Seasons becomes part of the WPA New York State Federal Theatre project of Long Island. The Valentine House, adjacent to the Memorial Building, was used as headquarters of the WPA Theatre Project, including offices, studios, dressing rooms and later dormitory for actors.

1940: Playhouse is leased by the Cabal Players, under the direction of David Lowe, and is renamed the Millpond Playhouse. Its first big success was "Soft Shoulders," a play written by local author Christopher Morley.

1951: Memorial Building and Valentine House transferred by the Roslyn Neighborhood Association to the Bryant Library.

March 1952: Bryant Library moves into War Memorial Building.

1953: Local History Collection established.

November 1968: Valentine House moved across Paper Mill road to make way for Bryant Library (Memorial Building) expansion.

1969-70: Expansion of the Bryant Library. Original building maintained most notably as the Helen Glannon Meeting Room and the Bryant Room, home to the library's Local History Collection.


THE VALENTINE HOUSE:

1800: Built between 1795-1810. Possibly built by William Valentine, who owned the paper mill and was the father of William M. Valentine (born 1809) a prominent local merchant. Members of the Valentine family operated the paper mill until 1891. William M. Valentine lived in the house and built the first brick store in Roslyn on the corner of Main Street and Tower Place, facing the Clocktower. William M. Valentine died in 1884.

1915: Valentine House and 2 1/2 acres acquired by the Roslyn Neighborhood Association. The Association was organized to "promote the recreational, industrial, intellectual, moral welfare of Roslyn, Nassau County, New York, and vicinity," The Neighborhood Association became the prime civic organization serving the Roslyn community. The Valentine House served as the headquarters of the association and was known as the "Neighborhood House." It was used by the Roslyn Visiting Nurse Association, The Red Cross, the Roslyn Boys Club and other community groups. The Neighborhood Association offered a wide variety of programs, including English classes for new immigrants, a hot lunch program and the first garbage pickup and disposal program in Roslyn. A library was established and during WWI a canning kitchen was in operation.

1916: Neighborhood House used as hospital during the infantile paralysis epidemic.

June 1919: Neighborhood Association begins campaign to erect a War Memorial Building adjacent to the Valentine House.

October 24, 1920: Cornerstone laid for War Memorial Building.

December 1924: Trustees of the Roslyn Neighborhood Association vote to merge the Neighborhood Association library with the Bryant Circulating Library Association.

1935- early 1940s: Valentine House used in connection with theater activities at the War Memorial Building.

1951: Valentine House and War Memorial Building transferred to the Bryant library.

1962: Valentine House to become Roslyn Village Hall.

October 6, 1963: Dedication of new Village Hall.

November 1968: Valentine House moved across Paper Mill Road to make room for Bryant Library (Memorial Building) expansion.

1995: Village Hall relocates to new home on Old Northern Blvd.

1998: Valentine House becomes Bryant Library Annex, housing library offices, Roberta Balfus Bookstore and a computer training/meeting room.

Permission to reproduce, publish or display whole text articles must be obtained from the Bryant Library Archivist.

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