NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New Rochelle Carnegie Library was built at the turn of the century, with a grant for the Andrew Carnegie, for the express purpose educating those that wanted to help themselves. Adrew Carnegie saw public libraries as instruments of change-not luxuries, but rather necessities, important installations, as vital to the community as police and fire stations and public schools
Carnegie placed such value on public access to education that he donated 90% of his wealth, building public libraries at the turn of the century, worldwide. He firmly believed society benefited through higher education. He was quoted as saying: The rich should give so that the poor can improve their own lives—and thus the lives of society “ As those in an educated society rose in rank, society as a whole benefited. To him, philanthropy was a code of honor and he was quoted as saying “ The man that dies rich, dies in disgrace “
What can the herculean efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and her friends at the Municipal Arts Society teach New Rochelle. They worked together to save the Grand Central Terminal, an irreplaceable building, from shortsighted budget manipulations of the Penn Central Railroad.
“When you have a building of beauty, value and historic significance, you do not tear it down, you will never get it back." Onassis said about Grand Central.n
She might well have said the same about New Rochelle's Carnegie Library.
Our Carnegie Library is deserving of our admiration on many levels.
Beyond the beauty of this Neo-Classical Style building, a healthy respect should be paid to how this facility contributed to the public education of New Rochelle in the early 19th century. But to stop there, is to miss another fascinating fact. This building served as a haven for artists, illustrators, animators, writers, playwrights and directors. Famous names the likes of Joseph Campbell, Robert Anderson, Elia Kazan spent countless hours creating some of their most famous works, consulting the library resources. World famous illustrator Norman Rockwell had one of his first public exhibits in this library.
To truly appreciate this building, you have to consider, who it educated, careers it launched and minds it shaped for nearly 65 years.
On June 14th, residents have the opportunity to let their voices be heard at the public hearing in Council Chambers and speak to support the preservation of the Carnegie Library at 622 Main Street.
Simply put, the City Council should support the positive recommendations of their Historic Landmark Review Board and the New Rochelle Planning Board, with a unanimous decision to approve the application before them, for Historic Landmark Designation of the property at 622 Main Street.
Council Members should recall the words of Jackie Onassis who wrote, "Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud moments, until there is nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children?"