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Jersey City And Its Historic Sites

By Harriet Phillips Eaton
Published 1899

This Web version, edited by GET NJ


About 1866 a few gentlemen in Bergen formed the Bergen Library Association. They collected subscriptions and organized a library of one thousand volumes. A room was given for their use in Library Hall and Major Gaines acted as librarian and secretary. After a few years the interest in it died out and the books were sold. In 1867 a few gentlemen in Hudson City formed a Free Library Association and hired a room on the southwest corner of Newark and Baldwin Avenues for the library. Books were given and bought until quite a respectable beginning was made. The ladies formed an aid society to help raise funds to start and support it. It existed for a few years, and then, for lack of funds and public interest, was discontinued. The books were packed and stored in a stable belonging to one of the trustees. In 1873 the Board of Education was authorized to establish a free library, with an allowance of $1,000 per year. It was kept at the High School and was open on Saturdays only. It was patronized principally by the pupils and teachers of the High School; in fact, there was a general impression abroad that none others were entitled to the privilege of the library.

In 1884 the New Jersey Legislature passed a law providing for free libraries in cities where the provisions of the law were accepted by the people at the general election. At the first election held, through indifference of the voters, there was not a majority in favor of a library, and the matter rested until another opportunity was given in 1889. At the April election of that year the requisite majority was secured. In May the Mayor appointed a Board of Trustees to create a library. They were Dr. L. J. Gordon, Michael Murray, W. C. Heppenheimer, Nelson J. H. Edge and Charles S. Haskell. The Mayor and City Superintendent of Schools, ex-officio members.

The library was opened July 6th, 1891. Mr. George Watson Cole was the first librarian, but was soon succeeded by the assistant librarian, Miss Esther E. Burdick. In the beginning the library met with many obstacles from the politicians, but owing to the indefatigable energy of Dr. Gordon and some of his colleagues, these and all other hindrances were overcome. A sinking fund was started for the purchase of lots and the erection of suitable buildings. The site purchased fronts on Jersey avenue, with fifty-one feet on Montgomery street, and fifty feet on Mercer on the block east of Jersey avenue.

The library has established fifteen stations. These will be increased as there is demand. In the reading room three hundred and ten periodicals and newspapers are on file, and it is well patronized every day of the year. The reference room is a greatly appreciated feature of the library, and is patronized by men, women and school children, who always find in Miss Burdick a courteous, kindly, interested assistant, one who always seems to know just where the needed knowledge is to be found. The very superior cataloguing of the library is due to Miss Burdick. While she is invaluable to all who frequent the library, her warmest sympathies seem to go out to the school children; to help solve their difficulties is her greatest delight. The cherished hope of her heart is that in the new library building there may be a children's room, well supplied with the very best juvenile literature. She recognizes fully the importance to the future of our city of the proper direction of the minds of the children, and in this line is doing most noble work for her adopted city. The library has many excellent features, notably the system of book circulation among the schools -- the works in German, French and Italian and its department of books for the blind. Jersey City may well be proud of its library and of its trustees and officials.

Table of Contents

Jersey City History
Your Ancestors' Story
Asbury Park
Bruce Springsteen's Jersey Shore Rock Haven!

The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and The Central Railroad Terminal
Visit Liberty State Park!

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297 Griffith St.
Jersey City, NJ 07307