by Wilma Glover-Koomson and Rio Aucena
February 7, 2002
Last Updated: June 26, 2019
On May 14, 1895, the King's Daughters Society, a very active charitable organization (also known as "The Haverstraw Ladies Home Mission Circle") petitioned the New York State Regents for a charter to create the Haverstraw King's Daughters Public Library (HKDPL). Melvil Dewey signed the charter, making this Library the oldest chartered public library in Rockland County. The signed charter hangs in the Main Library today.
King's Daughters Society of Haverstraw
The object of this Society shall be to bring into working relations all women of this town vicinity who [are] individually interested in works of charity..."
King's Daughters Society Constitution
The Library opened in Jenkins Hall in 1896 and moved to another location (the National Bank Building) the following year. In 1899, a prominent local brickyard owner, Denton Fowler, offered to donate half the cost of the purchase of a site and the erection of a new library building. The condition to this pledge was that his gift had to be matched. The needed $10,000 was raised, and Haverstraw Main, also known as the Fowler Building, officially opened at the foot of Main Street on May 14, 1903.
The building was constructed with Haverstraw brick from Mr. Fowler's brickyard (the imprint DF&S can be read on the bricks laid for the basement's floor.) The original part of this two-story building displays both Classical and Renaissance Revival characteristics, with finely detailed cornices, prominent quoins, a raised foundation and a curved entrance bay. The interior is virtually unchanged, and features original fireplaces with glazed brick, carved mantelpiece, pillars, and a central stairway with oak wainscoting banisters and newel posts capped. A fire, on the second floor, badly damaged the Library in 1956, destroying almost the entire book collection. The damage was repaired.
Over the next few decades, with an increase in population and an increased demand for services, a storefront branch (Thiells) on Route 202 was opened, in 1978, to serve the needs of patrons in Garnerville, Thiells and Pomona. In that same year the State granted the Library a new charter, by designating a "Special Library District," to give residents the opportunity to vote on the annual budget and for trustees. With population expanding at a fast rate, the Thiells Branch moved to the basement of the Haverstraw Town Hall.
The Library received Federal and State (HUD) funding to construct an addition to the Fowler Building. The new wing was constructed with sensitivity to the original building's scale and materials, preserving arches and cornices and adding a ramp for the disabled. In 1983, the new wing was dedicated to Mrs. Kay Freeman, who served the Library as its administrator for 21 years. The original portion of the building was also restored during the expansion.
The Board of Trustees, in 1986, began searching for land to expand the Library's facilities. A year later the public approved an expansion and capital projects fund. The Board began to inquire into the Rosman property at Garnerville. Meanwhile, the Fowler Building's unique beauty, and historic significance had not gone unnoticed. In 1991 the Fowler building was added to both the New York State Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. Two years later, it was the recipient of the Historical Society of Rockland County's Historic Preservation Merit Award for Continuing Use.
The Town Board approved the library subdivision on May 9, 2001. We selected Beatty, Harvey & Associates as architects, and Paceline Construction Corporation as our construction management firm to work on the plans and eventual construction. Sunday, October 21 marked the official groundbreaking ceremony of the new 36,000 square foot Haverstraw King's Daughters Library. Friends, staff and community enjoyed the beautiful weather and eagerly listened to speeches of hope and the reality of the new undertaking.
The grand opening of HKDPL's new branch at Garnerville was held on May 18, 2003. This new library became the Haverstraw King's Daughters Public Library's new main branch featuring state-of-the-art check-in and check-out equipment, countless public computers, rooms for programs, tutors, quiet study, gallery, and more space to house the growing needs of our community.
Three years later, on July 1, 2006, we closed the historic village library to begin preparation for a long-awaited interior renovation. Construction began on October 16 with Marquise Construction of Thornwood, NY as our general contractor, and Pearl River Plumbing and All Bright Electric working on the Fowler building's plumbing and electrical wiring, respectively. Construction remained in budget due to the work by architects Arcari and Iovino, and funding from the New York State Construction Grant as well as other liquidation steps taken by the library.
The village library re-opened in June 18, 2007 with the interior fully restored highlighting the beauty of its woodwork, windows, fireplaces, and view of the Hudson River. A formal grand opening was held on October 14, 2007 with a rededication ceremony with a brief speech from Board President Tom Casey, Library Director Joanne Sininsky, and the Honorable Mayor Wassmer. The newly renovated program/study room was named in memory of Genevieve McCab, a longtime trustee who served as board president from 1978 to 1983. An artwork made by second graders from Neary Elementary School was also presented during the ceremony which now hangs in display at the program/study room.
The Main Library celebrated its fifth anniversary on May 2008. Since its construction, our adult book collection has grown by over 12,000 items, our video and DVD collection has increased from 1,200 to over 10,000, and Youth Services has added nearly 5,000 items. Our adult programming has also increased along with a wider range of teen and youth programs.
On May 2, 2010, our Local History Room at the Main Library was rededicated in honor of Thomas F.X. Casey, a long-time and much beloved Board of Trustee President and Rockland County and Haverstraw Town Historian. The Village Branch received some face-lifts in early 2011 in time for its 108th birthday in the fall and May 18, 2015 marked a greener future for the library with a solar panel ribbon cutting for the main library. In memory of Karen Weaver, a long-time trustee of HKDPL, the Children's Room at the Main Library was named in her honor on November 18, 2017.
The library has come a long way since its formation over 100 years ago and we hope to serve the Town of Haverstraw, North Rockland School District residents, and the general public for another 100 years.
HKDPL's Major Milestone Timeline
The Early Years
1895 Melvil Dewey signs the New York State charter creating the HKDPL
1896 Library opens in Jenkins Hall
1898 Library moves to National Bank Bulding
1903 Fowler Library Building dedicated and opens to the public
1906 Landslide rescue efforts operate from the library
The Later Years
1956 A bad fire damages the building and destroys almost the entire book collection
1967 Story Hours begun by volunteers
1971 Friends of the Library founded
1973 Helen Hoenig Sequeira Gubits becomes the library's first director with an MLS (Masters in Library Science)
1975 Historic park renamed for Steamship Emeline at the library
1977 Experimental "mini-libraries" open in West Haverstraw and Thiells
1978 "Special Library District" approved 2 to 1 by voters in the 1st annual election
1978 Thiells Branch opens in a store on Route 202, Garnerville
1981 Thiells Branch moves to the basement of the Haverstraw Town Hall
1983 Kay Freeman Wing to the Fowler Library Building dedicated
1984 Full time professional librarians serve in Children's and Adult services at two sites
1989 One of the first pioneer libraries to form ANSER, our automated system
1991 Building listed on N.Y. State Register of Historic Places & National Register
1993 Wins Historic preservation Merit Award for Continuing use from the Historical Society of Rockland County
1994 Circulation of 173,721 items, 3rd highest in Rockland County
1995 Centennial Riverfest in Emeline Park
The Most Recent Years
2001 Groundbreaking ceremony held for new main library building in Garnerville
2003 Grand opening of main library building
2003 First library with an automated library system in Rockland County
2006 Fowler Library Building closes for renovations
2007 Renovated Fowler Library Building re-opens to the public
2007 Program room dedicated to Genevieve McCab at Fowler Library Building
2010 Local History Room in Main Library dedicated to Thomas F.X. Casey
2015 Solar panels installed at the Main Library
2017 Children's Room dedicated to Karen Weaver in Main Library