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In 1898, when New York City consolidated, adding Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens as boroughs, a determined effort was made to bring the outlying regions into the city’s civic culture. Four branches of the New York Public Library were built on rural Staten Island in Port Richmond, St. George, Stapleton, and Tottenville.

Construction was funded through a $5 million philanthropy project of steel-magnate Andrew Carnegie’s and was conducted citywide. Carnegie had endowed his first library in 1882 to his birthplace, Dunfermline, Scotland, but over time his philanthropy resulted in thousands of libraries being built all over the English-speaking world, most of them in the United States. Called the Carnegie Free Public Libraries, the fund constructed 2,509 library buildings in total at a cost of $56 million.

Andrew Carnegie made a fortune in steel, but he would not die with much of his money. He considered wealth a form of idolatry and gave most of his away, about $350 million by his death in 1919.

The buildings are petite, one-storied, and brick with classical facades and hipped roofs. They have Tuscan porticoes, arched windows framed in stucco, and sit in small landscaped plots with graceful old trees in village settings. The interiors are high ceilinged, with wood-paneling, and well-lit by the high and wide arched windows.

Carrere & Hastings, the firm who designed the Main Branch at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, designed all four libraries. They also designed the French chateau-style Staten Island Borough Hall in 1914, and the Pantheon-like Richmond County Courthouse in 1919.

Port Richmond Public Library
Built 1905
Architect: Carrere & Hastings
77 Bennett Avenue in Port Richmond

St. George Public Library
Built 1906
Architect: Carrere & Hastings
10 Hyatt Street in St. George

Stapleton Public Library
Built 1907
Architect: Carrere & Hastings
132 Canal Street in Stapleton

Tottenville Public Library
Built 1904
Architect: Carrere & Hastings
7430 Amboy Road in Tottenville