Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Name: Brooklyn Public Library, Saratoga Branch
Address: 8 Thomas S. Boyland Street
Cross Streets: Corner Macon Street
Neighborhood: Bedford Stuyvesant
Year Built: 1908
Architectural Style: Classical Revival
Architect: Rudolph L. Daus of Daus & Otto
Other buildings by architect: Three other Brooklyn Carnegie Libraries, as well as NY &NJ Telephone HQ on Willoughby Street, Jenkins Trust Building on Nostrand Avenue, Lincoln Club, Putnam Avenue, 13th Regiment Armory, Bed Stuy, as well as row houses in Park Slope and Bedford Stuyvesant
The story: Andrew Carnegie was one of the greatest philanthropists of his day, or any other. Whatever else one thinks about him, or his business dealings, you have to give him that. Carnegie believed that anyone who wanted to better him or herself should be able to do so, and rise on their own merit. Libraries had been his pathway to education as a youth in Scotland, and he wanted to be able to pass that opportunity along to others, all over the world. To that end, in the United States alone, he donated millions of dollars to build 1,689 libraries here. Some were connected to colleges and universities, but most were public libraries in cities and towns across the country. What a legacy.
Of course, the Carnegie awards were eagerly grabbed by the municipalities they were offered to. Brooklyn’s grant money was received in 1899, with enough money to fund the building of 21 branches of the Brooklyn Public Library. Mayors and other city leaders of the funded communities had to bring together a panel that would decide the location, size and other details of the new libraries. Here in Brooklyn, architect Rudolf Daus, who was very well connected in Brooklyn politics, was in charge of choosing the architects for the projects. The committee doled out the commissions to some very worthy architects, but the kicker was that Daus awarded himself with four. This was one of them.
The Saratoga branch of the Brooklyn Public Library replaced the first Saratoga Branch, which was located on Putnam Avenue. Daus took advantage of the site on the corner of Macon and Hopkinson Streets (now Thomas S. Boyland) and built a low slung, sprawling library. Daus could be an arrogant and opportunistic sod, but he was a great architect. His building is very different from the very classical and formal libraries of some of his contemporaries, and has a very modern, early 20th century look to it, due in great part to the single story, and his use of Mediterranean roof tiles and clinker bricks. It’s almost Arts and Crafts meets Beaux-Arts.
The library has been rehabbed several times in its 100-plus year history. The first time was 1958-1960, then 1974, and again in 1990. The interior has lost a lot of its detail, and an addition was added to the back. Modern amenities such as a wheelchair ramp have been added, and inside, computer terminals and the usual modern technological conveniences are now in place.
The library originally opened in 1908. Contemporary photos show a large central reading room, and stacks that are accessible by the public. Both of these were must-haves for Carnegie, and were written into his grant specifications. Although we are in an electronic age, libraries are still as necessary to our lives as they were to Carnegie. We should not give them away. GMAP
(Photograph: Christopher Bride for PropertyShark)