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The Carnegie letter

Saturday, September 14, 2013 - Updated: 4:09 AM

By LEE MILLER

For The Recorder

The Amsterdam Free Library is celebrating its 110th anniversary Sunday, Nov. 3. The Friends of the Amsterdam Free Library and the board of directors are hosting a birthday party to celebrate this milestone and raise funds for many needed updates, including a new boiler, new windows, enhanced wiring, and a complete exterior painting scheduled for the summer of 2014.

The Nov. 3 program, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 pm., will include a flag presentation ceremony by the Daughters of the American Revolution, basket raffles, musical entertainment by the Jump Daddies, along with cakes, a clown and crafts for kids.

The Amsterdam Free Library welcomes all to join our members, local community businesses, and elected officials to celebrate this historical gem and vivify the efforts of our ancestors.

During the 19th century, Dr. William H. Robb and other spirited local citizens formed an association to establish a library in the city of Amsterdam. At the initial site, funds for obtaining books and carrying on the work of the library were obtained through subscriptions, contributions and entertainments. An annual fee of $1 allowed subscribers to draw books for one year.

In 1895, the Amsterdam Library Association applied for membership in the University of the State of New York, and when granted, declared the library open for free use by Amsterdam city and town residents. Mr. David Cady's donation of a $10,000 property on Main Street helped to maintain the library programs and facilities during the era that followed.

After Dr. Robb passed away in 1898, the association's second elected president, Dr. S.H. French, applied to Andrew Carnegie for a capital gift. At the time, the famous industrialist issued numerous grants across the United States which led to construction of 1,689 new libraries between 1883 and 1929. On Feb. 4, 1902, Dr. French received the following handwritten answer to the Amsterdam Library Association's funding request:

Responding to your communication, if the City of Amsterdam will pledge itself to the support of a free library at the cost of not less than $2,500 a year and provide a suitable site, I will be glad to furnish $25,000 to erect a free public library building.

Andrew Carnegie

The Amsterdam Free Library was built in 1902 on the corner of Church and Livingston streets (now Route 5). Like most Carnegie libraries, the Amsterdam Free Library's design included a prominent doorway and a raised stairway entrance which symbolize "open access to all" and "elevation through learning." The doors on Church Street opened Nov. 3, 1903, and 110 years later, the library continues to elevate the Amsterdam community.

LEE MILLER of Amsterdam is the author of "Kali Sunset"

and a Friends of the Amsterdam Free Library member.

     

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