The Huntington Free Library has recently become a tragic eyesore for the Westchester Square community.
The library, located 9 Westchester Square, is a historic building that has had a deep-rooted history in the Bronx and most recently has become the target of graffiti vandals.
The original building remains well maintained, while graffiti corrupts the exterior of the 1930 building that now has a broken fence as a result of a fallen tree during a storm several years ago.
“The money invested in this library at the beginning is still the money we are working with, we are not part of the New York Public Library system and are strictly non-profit,” said librarian Cathy McChesney. “We have such an extremely limited budget that we went from a full staff to a one-person staff about ten years ago.” There is little funding available to fight back vandalism.
“We already filed the paperwork to have the graffiti removed. It was gone and this all happened within one week in December,” said McChesney. “We are hoping the City will come and power wash it, because painting is no solution. We have filed police reports and have done everything we have been asked to do”
Peter C. Van Schaick set aside funding to construct the library in 1882 and 1883, hoping the citizens would take full advantage. Unfortunately, local residents rejected this concept and the building remained vacant until 1892, when Collis P. Huntington took possession to create a functional library.
Huntington’s son, Archer M. Huntington, added a second three-story structure to this library to hold the book collection for the Museum of the American Indian. Though the American Indian collection was removed in 2004, the library continues to hold valuable collections and information.
In 1994 the original 1800’s building was declared a New York City Landmark, separate from the 1930 building, and a remarkable piece of history.
The 1930 building, now used as storage and office space, holds no collections open to the public. The original structure, however, continues to hold turn-of-the-century collections and valuable historic Bronx information. The library remains locked for security purposes, but can be used by ringing the bell or through appointments at any time.
According to McChesney, the trustees that control the property, are looking into bringing in other non-profit organizations to better utilize this space for the benefit of the community.
Until that time, the library hosts East Bronx History Forum meetings at 7:30, every third Wednesday of the month. The January 21st meeting, open to all public, will be showing a virtual tour of the Huntington Free Library’s Facility and History.
For more information contact (718) 829-4875.
©2009 Community News Group
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