Author: Charlie Houghton (page 2 of 2)

Friends Meeting

The Friends of the Takoma Branch will be meeting on Tuesday February 10th, at 7pm in the newly renovated meeting room.  All current and future members are welcome to join.

Meet the New Branch Manager

The Friends of the Library is hosting a meet and greet reception for our new branch manager, Michelle Sellars, at the library on Tuesday, December 9, at 7:00 pm. Please stop by to meet Michelle, chat with Friends/friends about our upcoming plans, and check out our newly renovated basement meeting space. The reception will be held upstairs, but the meeting room will be open for tours as long as no group reserves the room for that time.

Hope to see you there.

The Opening of the Takoma Park Neighborhood Library

The Takoma Park Neighborhood Library opened Nov. 17, 1911, with many prominent speakers, including Theodore W. Noyes, president of the Library’s Board of Trustees, Dr. George F. Bowerman, Head Librarian of the DC Public Library, Reverend Thomas C. Clark of the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church, and Colonel Gilbert C. Kniffen, a representative of the Takoma Park citizens group. The speakers praised the efforts of the community for obtaining the library with Dr. Bowerman predicting that it would become a “social and intellectual center of community life” in Takoma Park.

The branch opened with 3,871 volumes purchased or permanently transferred from the central library, which continued to supplement the branch collection. The first branch librarian was Alice Ramsburg, a former employee at the central library. She was assisted by a children’s librarian, an assistant librarian and a janitor who lived in the basement.

The library quickly assumed a central role in the life of the community. In the first two weeks, three local organizations held meetings in the building’s lecture hall. These were the Takoma Park Citizens Association, the Boy Scouts and the Home Interest Club. Community use of the library peaked in 1925 when 230 meetings and classes were held for 5,716 patrons. Book circulation was promising in the first seven months, reaching 23,663 volumes.

However, the operation of Washington’s first neighborhood library was not always smooth. Less than a year after the opening, Congress reduced the annual appropriation to a meager $1,560, necessitating the discharging of staff and a 20 percent reduction in the branch librarian’s salary. The hours of operation were also reduced to three days a week, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Design of the Takoma Park Library

Marsh & Peter designed an ornate Renaissance Revival style library building in a diminutive form for Takoma Park. The building’s footprint measured only 58 by 85 feet. The one-story, hipped roof, brick and stone building was distinguished by its wide cornice articulated by dentil molding and frieze, and an imposing central entry surmounted by a semi-circular arched fanlight and flanked by Ionic pilasters. Two symmetrically balanced, semi-circular arched windows flanked the main entry.

restored vestibule side view

Restored vestibule side view

The interior of the library was designed to contain a main reading room (measuring 35 by 55 feet) at the front of the building, and a combined children’s room/lecture hall (measuring 31 by 33 feet) at the rear. This multipurpose room at the rear incorporated a recessed alcove with a fireplace and raised platform for presentations. The basement space was occupied by a librarian’s restroom, a small kitchen, a workroom and a living room for the janitor. The interior woodwork was rendered in quartered light oak and finished in a silver gray shade. The walls were painted in various shades of ivory, white and soft green. Particular attention was paid to the lighting, heating and ventilation of the building with the most current technology being employed. In addition, an intercommunicating telephone system was installed.

The new branch was intended to serve the citizens of Takoma Park, who were mainly employed with the federal government, their children and the residents of the densely populated surrounding areas. These areas included Brightwood, Park View, Petworth, Saul’s Addition, Sligo and Forest Glen. Two large public schools located in Takoma Park and Brightwood also influenced the siting of the public library branch in Takoma Park, as it was hoped that the library would work in conjunction with the public schools to educate the youth of these neighborhoods.


How the Takoma Library came to be

The Takoma Park neighborhood received the first purpose-built Neighborhood Library in the history of the DC Public Library system on Nov. 17, 1911. Prior to receiving funding for the public library branch, Takoma Park residents were served by a private subscription library. The current Takoma Park Branch at 416 Cedar St. NW was funded through a $40,000 contribution by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. One of four Carnegie-funded library buildings in Washington, D.C., the Takoma Park Library represented the beginning of a system of branches that today encompasses 25 branch libraries and one central library.

The one-story Renaissance Revival style brick building was designed by the Washington-based architectural firm of Marsh & Peter. The building has continuously served this upper-Northwest community since 1911, and remains a community focal point. The Takoma Park Neighborhood Library stands in the Takoma Park National Register Historic District designated in 1983. The building received an extensive makeover in 2009.


Before the Takoma Park Library

takoma park

The suburb of Takoma Park, located in the northern section of the District, began as a real estate venture in 1883 when Benjamin Franklin Gilbert purchased 90 acres spanning the Metropolitan Branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. By the 1890s, the area had grown into a popular commuter suburb, offering the convenience of streetcar service to the city’s center combined with the natural, healthful surroundings of a semi-rural setting. At the turn of the 20th century, the burgeoning population of Takoma Park created a demand for additional services that residents had formerly received in the city center. One such amenity was the convenience of a nearby library.

The relative wealth and high level of education in the community made possible the organization of a local library, privately run and funded through community subscription. This small lending library, known as the Takoma Club and Library, was opened May 1, 1900, at numbers 10, 12 and 14 Oak Ave., across from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station. The library originally held approximately 100 volumes, growing to 600 by 1903. This library served the community until 1911, when the present public library branch was opened.

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