Building of the Day: 25 Fourth Avenue

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Brooklyn, one building at a time.

Name: Pacific Branch, Brooklyn Public Library
Address: 25 Fourth Avenue, corner of Pacific Street
Neighborhood: Boerum Hill
Year Built: 1903
Architectural Style: Beaux-Arts
Architect: Raymond F. Almirall
Other buildings by architect: St. Michael’s RC Church, Sunset Park, Brooklyn Public Library on Eastern Parkway, Crown Hts, Public Bath # 7, on 4th Ave, Harlem Hospital, and Seaview Hospital on Staten Island.
Landmarked: Yes

The story: This was the very first of the Carnegie Libraries built in Brooklyn. They were funded by Andrew Carnegie to provide access to books and library facilities to all, in order for people to become educated, and thus able to better themselves. As a youth, Carnegie himself used public and private libraries to educate himself, and after working to become one of America’s wealthiest men, he established a fund to build libraries in many cities and countries across the globe. Between 1883 and 1929, 2,509 libraries were established.

Raymond F. Almirall was born in Brooklyn, and graduated from Poly Tech. He would go on to Cornell, and then the elite L’ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Like many student of the Beaux-Arts, his practice consisted mostly of civic buildings, large canvases upon which to paint the grand ideals of the movement. This library is one of his first NY buildings, and pre-dates St. Michael’s church by several years. It is a grand edifice with Almirall’s signature feature, an unusual and unique roof design. He had to restore it in 1914, after damage done in building the subways underneath it, and in 1917, it was damaged in a fire. Another fire almost permanently doomed it in 1973, but community support for the building stopped its destruction, and the library was restored in 1975. The library remains an impressive building in the heart of the Times Plaza area, its Beaux-Arts majesty complementing the Art Deco Williamsburg Savings Bank, as well as the Victorian Church of the Redeemer directly across the street, going to show the many periods and styles that have gone into the streetscapes of Brooklyn. Tomorrow’s Walkabout will highlight more of this prominent Brooklyn architect’s life and works.

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(Floor plan: Brooklyn Public Library, 1903)

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