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The tiny beginning which eventually culminated in the present Free Public Library of Teaneck started the latter part of 1913. Mrs. A. N. Jordan, who then lived on West Englewood Avenue, opposite Elm Terrace, received a gift of books from her brother-in-law. As this gift contained many juvenile books and as there were many young boys and girls living in the neighborhood, Mrs. Jordan opened up a library in the sun-parlor of her house for these children. At this time there were but eleven houses on West Englewood Avenue. Soon not only the children were making use of the library but the grown people as well began to inquire for books. One of the most extensive users was Mrs. Noel Bisson, whose husband was later well known as the Janitor of the Washington Irving School.As time went on the request for adult books became greater, and, to meet this demand, Mrs. Jordan secured the signatures of ten tax-payers, all members of the Women's Political Union, of which Mrs. Jordan was a member, vouching for her responsibility and, forwarding this to the New Jersey State Library Commission, she was appointed by this Commission the Trustee of books loaned by the State. These State loaned books were changed monthly and Harry McEntee, brother of Mrs. Sarah Burns, now employed as Custodian of the Library, took care, free of charge, of all carting to and from the express office. Harry McZntee took care of this cartage until a terrible disaster occurred to him. He was kicked in the face by the horse he used in his express business and was so seriously injured that he has been totally blind since that time.
By this time the community began to grow rapidly and inquiries came from all sides for books. Mrs. Jordan then moved the books to the candy store on Station Street in the building now occupied by The Koffee Kitchen and there distributed books twice a week. Shortly after this a new building (now occupied by Cutler's Drug Store) was erected on the corner of West Englewood Avenue and Station Street, and Mr. Brendle moved in as proprietor. The Library, for so it was then called, transferred to the new building.
Mrs. John Holder, then of West Englewood Avenue, and Miss Gladys Schumann, at this time a young girl, now Mrs. Robert Stanborough, volunteered to assist Mrs. Jordan in the distribution of books, each taking one afternoon a week, while Mrs. Jordan distributed them two evenings a week. Later Miss Fannie Borden, now Mrs. F. H. Schultz, and Mrs. John Caddy assisted with the distribution of books, relieving the other workers of one afternoon a week. The records show that among those patronizing the Library at that time were Mrs. Horace Ruggles, Mrs. Fred Griffiths, Mrs. Al King, Mrs. Cunningham and Miss Doris Cunningham and Mrs. James Convery, all who had built new homes in the West Englewood Park Section, which had just begun to open up as a development. Miss Florence Borden, now Mrs. Gordon Middlemas, Mrs. John Holder, Mrs. Bealing, Mrs. Washington Hazleton and Mrs. Walter Middlemas were also extensive users of the Library.
The Library continued to be of use in the community until the infantile paralysis epidemic caused Churches, Schools and all public places to close. Conforming to the request of the Town Board that all public places be closed, the Library temporarily ceased to function. After the epidemic was over it did not open at once, due to serious illness in Mrs. Jordan's family.
The School-Civic Association, which had been organized some years prior by Mrs. Jordan, who was its first President, then took over this Library work. Charter members of this Organization who worked until the completion of the undertaking, were Mrs. Sarah Kennedy and Miss Lillian Kennedy, Mrs. Herman Schumann, Mrs. August Ahrens, Mrs. Hans Nibbe, Mrs. Carl Franke, Miss Matte Scott, Mrs. John Cady and Mrs. A. N. Jordan. At a later date Mrs. Rose Peinecke, Mrs. Margaret Hawkey, Mrs. Elizabeth Sample, Mrs. Agnes Campbell, Mrs. Georgianna Greenlaw, Mrs. Irene Thackwell and Mrs. Frances Quasdorf became members and remained until the Library became a public institution. At the time the Library work was taken over by the School Civic Association Mrs. Herman Schumann was President and Miss Lillian Kennedy, Secretary. Mrs. Sarah Kennedy was the oldest member of the Association, faithfully attended the meetings and could always be depended upon to help in any undertaking of the Association. Her daughter, Lillian, was the youngest member and always an ardent worker. In fact this whole group of women worked hard. Two of our members, Mrs. Peinecke and Mrs. Nibbe, although serving in no official capacity, were always generous in their support and loyal in attendance. Mrs. Ahrens, another hard worker and supporter, at one time served as Treasurer. Many others became members, earnestly working, but dropped out, some moving away, some being too busy and some losing interest. Among these were Mesdames: Hazleton, Studt, Wahl, Middlemas, Farrer, Lebeck, Le Veque, Hunting, Keith, Miss Pauline Kimmerle and others whose names are omitted because of our inability to locate the Minutes of the Association and thus secure them.
This group of women began collecting books to add to those loaned by the State. Books continued to be distributed from the various stores on Station Street. The Library soon outgrew these quarters. Realizing the Library work was going to be one of their important projects, a formal corporation was organized known as the "Teaneck Public Library". On June 2nd, 1922, this Corporation leased, with an option to buy, the old slave cabin corner Teaneck Road and Bedford Avenue, now occupied by a garage. It soon became apparent to these women that this location was a good one for the work and they resolved to purchase the property if possible. A Committee from the Association approached the owner and offered her two thousand dollars for the property. The owner asked for time to think it over and appointed the afternoon of the next day as the time to give her final answer. In the meantime she consulted with Mr. Carl Franke as to the responsibility of this group of women and their ability to meet the debt. Upon being assured by Mr. Franke that she was safe in making a contract with the Organization, the contract was signed by the property parties and a cash deposit made. After the contract was signed, the owner, being offered a better price for the property, wished to change her mind about selling to the Teaneck Public Library. Mr. A. N. Jordan, whose wife was on the Committee appointed to take up this matter of the purchase of the property, drew up the first contract. This contract had at various times been attacked as not being binding but it was found by all parties concerned that it was impossible for it to be broken. Not having funds in the Treasury of the Teaneck Public Library, and, after unsuccessfully interviewing several Banks requesting a loan on the property, on the suggestion of Mr. Abram DeRonde, President of the Palisade Trust Company of Engle- wood, the Organization took out a temporary loan, secured by a note endorsed by Messrs. Greenlaw, Jordan, and Sample, and, in the meantime, arrangements were made for a permanent loan from the Franklin Society, a Building and Loan Organization.
In August the Teaneck Public Library insisted upon the owner of the property living up to her contract and a date was set for closing the deal. All parties assembled at the home of the owner and a certified cheque on the Palisade Trust Company was tendered as payment. The owner refused to accept this and demanded cash. Mrs. Sample was drafted to go to Englewood to secure the cash, which she did, taking with her Miss Scott. Miss Scott, being unmarried, had been selected by the Organization to act as Trustee for the Public Library and title to the property was vested in her name as Trustee, with the cash in hand, Miss Scott, Mrs. Greenlaw, and Mrs. Sample, (Mrs. Jordan being in New Hampshire at this time,) guided by a lawyer from the Franklin Society, consummated the sale and the little slave cabin became the property of the Teaneck Public Library.
After acquiring title to the property, the problem of the women was to raise funds to meet their monthly Building and Loan payments and funds to renovate the building, which had been condemned as unfit for use and a menace to the community. Here Mr. Carl Franke, a skilled builder, came to the rescue of the women. He put the building in fair condition of repair and gave them an unlimited time to pay the bill.
The town was small, the Organization had very little money and their debts were heavy. Everything that could possibly be accomplished by volunteer labor was done. The first step was to clean the building. Mrs. Hawkey, Mrs. Jordan, Mrs. Greenlaw and Mrs. Sample were appointed a Committee to do this work. Mrs. Greenlaw, due to other engagements, could only give an hour of her time. The others spent the entire day from eight in the morning until after seven in the evening, cleaning out rubbish and burning it and scrubbing woodwork and floors. As there was no water in the place each pailful was carried from the Borden home nearby. At the end of the day the place that had been unsightly and uninhabitable had been made clean and fresh smelling.
John Caddy, George and Paul Reynolds, amateurs in the art of painting, gave the interior its first coat of paint.
The cabin consisted of one large room, a small side room, a tiny kitchen and a large attic. In the main room was a large Colonial fireplace and mantel, on one side of which was a wood closet and stairway, the other side being made up entirely of old fashioned cupboards with original H hinges. All this choice old woodwork was painted white by the amateur painters.
Mr. Joseph Burns, an old citizen and husband of the present custodian of the Library, donated to the women a handsome set of black iron andirons, which were taken by some one when the Library was being transferred to its temporary quarters in the old Town Hall after the women had sold the little cabin.
When the Library building was opened to the public a cheery fire of logs was burning in the fireplace, flowers artistically arrranged decorated the room and the books neatly placed on the shelves.
Mrs. Greenlaw volunteered to become Chairman of the Library Committee. Other members of the Association assisted with this work, taking turns with Mrs. Greenlaw in keeping the Library open and distributing books, among whom were Mesdames: Thackwell, Ahrens, Sample, Jordan, Quasdorf, Miss Kimmerle and others. The Library was open two afternoons and two evenings a week. In order to keep it open the women worked under the most trying circumstances. In the winter the fireplace was inadequate and a small stove was put in, the coal for which was kept in a barrel in the corner.
A school boy was hired to act as janitor, but, like all boys, his mind sometimes wandered and the women suffered accordingly, most of the time having to take out the ashes and build the fire, their fingers and toes aching and their teeth chattering with the cold.
In the spring of that year, the building being badly in need of paint, the women decided to hold a "Painting Bee ". Notices were put in the papers that any men wishing to assist would be welcome at the Library at eight o'clock in the morning, and, as a result of this invitation, A. N. Jordan, Lawyer, Charles O. Keith, Builder, and Frank L. Sample, who donated the paint, arrived. Mr. Jordan and Mr. Sample remained faithfully on the job all day, Mr. Keith, finding other pressing engagements, departed after a few minutes, not re-appearing until sun-down. The first of the women to appear was Mrs. Jordan, who arrived with several large brushes and a business like costume. Mrs. Greenlaw, with her painting equipment, was the next to appear, followed by a car which drove up to the front of the building, in which sat two apparent strangers. Closer investigation disclosed the occupants of the car to be Mrs. Hawkey and Mrs. Sample, attired in grotesque costumes, most prominent of which was Mrs. Sample's old fashioned high silk hat to protect her hair from the paint. The day was a hot May day. The amateur painters labored faithfully, climbing ladders, mixing paint and painting, the work going forward with merriment, great rivalry and much celerity. The men claimed to be better and faster painters than the women, but that is a matter remaining doubtful.
At twelve o'clock Mrs. Ahrens and Mrs. Nibbe gave the call for luncheon, which they had been preparing and which was set on a large table under a great shade tree in the rear of the property. The menu consisted of cold boiled ham cooked by Mrs. Jordan, salads made by Mrs. Bisson and Mrs. Peinecke, light hot biscuits made by Mrs. Nibbe, dainty relishes and jelly contributed by Mrs. Ahrens, doughnuts and lemon meringue pies made by Mrs. Franke, who was famed in the community for these delicacies, and good hot coffee made over an open fire. It should not be omitted that the men upset the first pot of coffee and claimed more than their share of the pie, but this was but natural. Near the end of the luncheon, Miss Matte Scott arrived, coming from business, and joined the painting party. After all had eaten heartily the painting was resumed. An amusing incident was when Miss Scott decided she would paint the shutters which had been removed from the building for that purpose. The building in the meantime had been painted white. Miss Scott, claiming she was a careful painter, re-hung these shutters and proceeded to paint them green. Sad to relate the green paint did not stay only where it belonged but spread and dripped over the newly painted white front of the building. However, this small disaster was rectified by another coat of white paint applied to the building and no one but the men said there was a faint tinge of green showing on the front of the building.
At two o'clock an experienced painter, Mr. William Metzel, arrived and rescued the amateurs from their, by this time, arduous labors. The sun continued to pour down on the building and the workers were only kept on the job by applications of cold lemonade supplied by a member.
A cedar pole had been gotten from the woods by Mr. Sample and put in shape to be erected on the Library grounds. After struggling to place this pole, and, at the critical moment, a Telephone Company truck with Mr. Walter Studt in charge, happened to be passing. They stopped and offered their assistance and in a few minutes the flag pole was securely in place. Mr. Metzel then gave it its final coat of paint.
Just as the workers had completed their painting job a heavy thunder shower came up and drenched the building but did not affect the paint.
Although tired and worn by the work and the heat this determined group proceeded to cut the grass, first with a scythe and then a lawn mower, put the walk in condition, put up the window boxes which Mrs. Campbell had had filled with beautiful blooming plants, all this in preparation for the flag raising on Decoration Day.
With the problem of meeting the monthly Building and Loan payments always before them the women planned numerous ways of raising money. Mrs. Herman Schumann's house and grounds were always at the disposal of any Committee and many cake sales and card parties were arranged and given by her. Mrs. Caddy also put her house at the disposal of the Association and often when the Library building was too cold, business meetings were held there. Mrs. Hawkey, Treasurer, always came to the rescue of the treasury when it was depleted. One of the most successful cake sales was given on the lawn of her home, and she arranged fairs and other entertainments to raise money. Toward all these cake sales and entertainments all members of the Association made donations. Mrs. Greenlaw gave a The' Dansant at her house to raise money. At one time, being hard driven for funds, a traveling cake sale was arranged. A truck was donated and decorated with signs and balloons and loaded with the best things the women could bake. On its journey through the town the truck was preceded by a car containing a bugler and a bell ringer, following the methods of the old town crier. The truck load of cakes, bread and pies was disposed of early in the afternoon and a good sum was realized, sufficient to carry them over the critical period. It was by similar methods the treasury was always replenished and all payments met. No one person could be given more credit for the success of these undertakings than another.
To secure money for the purchase of books sustaining members were solicited who contributed a fixed sum per year. One of the members of the Association, Mrs. Agnes Campbell, who because of illness in her family could not contribute service, subscribed a monthly sum to be used solely for the purpose of purchasing children's books. Other members of the Association and Cornmunity contributed sums of books. Mrs. Greenlaw, Chairman of the Library Committe, had charge of changing the State loan when necessary and it gives us pleasure to state that William Haupt, who then had a newspaper and expressage business, did carting over a number of years free of charge.
The young people of the town were also interested in this part of the Library work and a group gathered together and, at various times, gave little affairs, netting sums which they donated to the Library for the purpose of buying books.
Mrs. Irene Thackwell was an active worker in the matter of soliciting funds for the Library.
The community had been rapidly growing and property had advanced materially. The library work had grown to such proportions that it overshadowed all other activities of the School Civic Association. Branches had been formed in various sections of the town, notably Glenwood Park and Bogota Sections, where active libraries were established for the local use in the respective sections. Miss Matte Scott, Treasurer of the School-Civic Association, was called upon at various times to go to the different sections and give a talk regarding the activities of the School-Civic and Library Associations.
Gradually it became apparent that the Library work was of such importance that it was deemed wise to give up all other lines of activity and the School-Civic dropped its original name. In the Glenwood Park and Bogota Sections it changed into the Parent-Teacher Association and in the central section it became the Teaneck Public Library, known as The Library Association.
It is interesting to re-call that at the time the present Municipal Building was completed the Library Association voted to present to the Town a Bible and an American Flag. These were presented at the last meeting of the Town Board held in the old Town Hall. The Bible and Flag were in place and used at the first meeting of the Town Board held in the new Municipal Building. The funds needed for the purchase of both the Bible and the Flag were raised at a cake sale held on Mrs. Schumann's lawn.
The advance in the price of property in Teaneck was fortunate for the Library Association and they were offered a large sum for the property which had cost them two thousand dollars. They sold the property and netted fifteen thousand dollars on this proposition. The Library Association realized that the town was out-growing the privately run institution. They approached the Town Board with an offer to give them fifteen thousand dollars for a public library under Township control and maintenance. After due deliberation the Town Board agreed to this proposal and offered five thousand dollars additional funds toward a building, which proposal was submitted to the voters at a referendum. The vote showed the people in favor of a public library.
Before going to the Town Board with this proposition a Committee appointed by the Library Association met with Mr. Frederick Warner, Architect, residing in Teaneck. The Committee explained the situation to Mr. Warner and asked him what he would do to help in the matter of a design for a Library Building. Mr. Warner offered to design the building and supervise the construction of it, free of charge, as a donation to the Library movement. This Mr. Warner did and our beautiful Library Building speaks for itself.
In recognition of the contribution made by the Library Association, Mr. William Bodine, Chairman of the Town Board, requested the Association to suggest the names for five members to be appointed to the first Board of the Free Public Library of Teaneck. The following names were sent to the Chairman of the Town Board by the Library Association: Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Greenlaw, Mrs. Jordan, Miss Scott and Mrs. Thackwell. Mrs. Jordan, realizing that one of the most outstanding members of the Association, Mrs. Margaret Hawkey, Treasurer of The Teaneck Public Library" had not been suggested for the new board of the Free Public Library of Teaneck, asked that Mrs. Hawkey's name be substituted for the five year term in place of her own name, and, on March 8th, 1927, the following persons were appointed by the Town Board: Mrs. Campbell, Mrs. Greenlaw, Mrs. Hawkey, Miss Scott and Mrs. Thackwell. Mrs. Hawkey stated she would not accept this appointment and as Mrs. Campbell did not wish to serve, as it was well known she did not participate in public affairs, she requested that her name be withdrawn and Mrs. Jordan's name substituted. Under these conditions Mrs. Hawkey consented to remain a member of the Board. The Town Board accepted Mrs. Campbell's resignation and named Mrs. Jordan.
A permanent organization of the Board of Trustees was effected and the incorporation papers taken out in the names of the following Trustees:
Five Year Term: Mrs. Margaret Hawkey
with the following Officers duly elected:
President, Mrs. A. N. Jordan; Secretary, Mrs. Ralph Greenlaw; Treasurer, Mrs. Margaret Hawkey,
and from its earliest organization The Free Public Library of Teaneck has grown to be one of the most outstanding educational institutions of the Township.
To make it clear in every one's mind, we want to call attention to the fact that the School-Civic Association, The Library Association and The Teaneck Public Library, Inc., were all one and the same body only spoken of in different terms.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410