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Designing the Library of the Future

By Amy Lau

Posted on October 15, 2020

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Long Island Historical Society, Library Floor Plan, circa 1878; 128 Pierrepont Street building architectural drawings, ARC.302; Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library.

This week we look back at a building design contest that literally shaped our library space.

The Long Island Historical Society (the former name of Brooklyn Historical Society which recently became the Center for Brooklyn History) held a building design contest from December 1877 to February 1878 after raising approximately 93,000 dollars to construct a new building at the corner of Pierrepont and Clinton streets.

Our photo of the week depicts one of the drawings submitted by architect George B. Post. The drawing, done in watercolor and ink, was Post’s proposed library floor plan. This drawing was one of thirty-three drawings submitted by Post for the building design contest. A committee of the Long Island Historical Society’s Board of Directors decided to base the final design of the 128 Pierrepont Street building on Post’s plans with some modifications.

Construction of the 128 Pierrepont building commenced on Friday, October 25, 1878 and finished in early January 1881. The Long Island Historical Society held a formal opening event celebrating the opening of the building on Wednesday, January 12, 1881. On the day of the event, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle described the anticipated opening celebration schedule:

No less than nine addresses are looked for, but all of them are expected to be short, and the intervals between them will be agreeably filled with music by an orchestra of eight excellent performers, whose services have been secured by Secretary Hanns…After the exercises are over, the company will be invited to inspect the library, the museum and the other departments, and the band will play in the library till 11 o’clock.

From Long Island Historical Society to Brooklyn Historical Society to the Center for Brooklyn History, the 128 Pierrepont Street building has undergone multiple name changes and continues to inspire thought, research, and learning. As we look ahead to a new chapter at 128 Pierrepont Street, we look forward to making the building, and the rich collections housed within and online, available to all free of charge. We also look forward to creating greater accessibility to our collections through exhibitions and programming at Brooklyn Public Library’s neighborhood branches.

Interested in seeing more photos from CBH’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. We look forward to inviting you to CBH in the future to conduct research through our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our digital collections, available here. Our reference staff are still available to help with your research! You can reach us at [email protected]

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