- Grant Recipient
Arts & Culture
- 138 Pike St, Port Jervis, NY 12771, USA
- 41.3762872, -74.6916149
Minisink Valley Historical Society
Completed in 1903, the Port Jervis Free Library building is a Carnegie Library, the only one of its kind in Orange County. Built with funding from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the library’s charter dates back to September 1892, prior to the building’s construction—the first library in New York State, according to Minisink Historical Society, to receive a charter from the New York State Board of Regents.
A Report of the Carnegie Corporation’s Library Program 1911- 1961 records the 1901 contribution of $30,000 to Port Jervis, NY. While the Saturday, February 23 edition of The Evening Gazette reported that, “Good news travels like wildfire and already our whole community is rejoicing over the fact that the erection of an adequate and commodious library building is now assured”, the project would not have been possible without another substantial matching gift.
Indeed, a letter from Carnegie’s office reprinted in the same article made the following stipulations: “If Port Jervis will pledge itself to support a Public Library, free from taxation, at a cost of not less than $3,000 a year, and provide a suitable site, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to give $20,000 for building.” To this end, a March 23 article now reported on Mr. Peter E. Farnum’s “splendid gift from the library” permitting the committee to “accept the site.” Minisink Historical Society records add that it was a substantial contribution of land made by this local businessman which made the Carnegie award possible. On June 29, The Evening Gazette announced Mr. Carnegie agreed to raise his donation from $20,000 to $30,000, reflecting the community’s participation.
Designed by New York City architect W.S. Ackerman and built by local contractor Lorenzo Wood, a cornerstone was laid on September 1, 1902. The September 2, 1902 edition of the Evening Gazette notes that the “very impressive and interesting exercises” were witnessed by 3,000 people with Mr. Carnegie and Mr. Farnum both eulogized by speakers. An opening ceremony took place later on October 1, 1903. On this occasion, the Evening Gazette observed that “the people were of one mind, that [they] have a splendid building, thoroughly adaptable to [their] needs for generations to come. Everybody felt happy and proud.”
Also notable about the 1903 Library is that it was first library in the state to establish a permanent maintenance fund, a term of the Carnegie contribution. In 1903 there were 14,000 books in the collection, with 1,000 being added per annum. One of 1,679 libraries given by Carnegie to 1,412 towns and cities across the country, in 2019, it was one of only a few hundred surviving still being used for its original purpose.