A historic building in the Bronx is longing for a new tenant – and a new purpose.
The Old Fordham Library, formerly known as the Bronx Central Library, located on 2556 Bainbridge Avenue, just off of Coles Lane, is currently vacant, but various proposals of potential tenants and purposes have given the building glimpses of life again.
The 90-plus-year old Georgian style building was originally designed in 1923 by architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, who were also responsible for designing Manhattan’s old Pennsylvania Station and Columbia University’s main campus.
At the time it was built, the Bronx Central Library was the largest library in the borough.
The library included an upstairs area for children, especially for high school and college students working on research papers, as well as a downstairs area for adults.
The building also included a lecture area, and was used to teach immigrants, particularly of Irish, Italian and Jewish decent, how to read and write English and get adjusted to American culture.
The Bronx Central Library remained open until 2005, when a larger Bronx Library Center was built just blocks away on 310 E. Kingsbridge Road between East Fordham Road and East 192nd Street. It was the first city-owned green building.
The Bronx Library Center opened to the public three months after the Bronx Central Library officially closed its doors.
Since its closing, the Old Fordham Library has not been completely out of use.
Since 2005, the building has been used to store city records and in 2008, there were proposals to turn it into a 24/7 animal shelter, which would have been a first in the Bronx. However, these plans eventually fell through.
More recently, the Fordham community and its leaders have been leaning towards turning the former library into something beneficial for the neighborhood, such as a recreational or a youth center.
In 2009, Sistas and Brothas United, a youth group of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, rallied for it to undergo community minded-development.
Currently, the building is used on occasion by an arts and dance group.
A Bronx historian however, has another idea for the building’s use.
“Make it the new home of the Bronx County Historical Society,” said Lloyd Ultan. “The location and the space would be perfect for the organization.”