The Main Library in Jersey City, New Jersey, is an architectural masterpiece in the Italian Renaissance tradition from the New York firm of Brite and Bacon, with its cornerstone laid in 1899, and its grand opening held in 1901.
Over 100 years later, this grand library has been in need of a major renovation, which was started on Friday, October 31, 2014. To be in compliance with Federal law – the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 – and to upgrade its facilities, the Main Library must undergo a complete overhaul on all its four floors.
The Otis elevator originally was installed in 1900 before the Main Library was opened, and nearly 20 years later, it needed repairs. According to the September 1919 Board of Trustees minutes, the Otis Elevator Co. got the contract.
In subsequent advertisements for elevator contracts at the Main Library, Otis was undercut both times – in 1928 and 1929.
On April 2, 1928, the Notice to Contractors appeared in the newspaper seeking “one (1) Electric Service Elevator and one (1) Electric Dumbwaitor for the Addition.” Burwick Elevator Co. was the lowest bidder ($7,990.00) and was awarded the contract at the April 17, 1928 (page 441) Board of Trustees meeting.
Less than a decade after the 1919 repairs, the elevator was again problematic. In the Board of Trustees Minutes for September 11, 1928 (page 18), it states, “That complete new passenger elevator and equipment be installed instead of repairing present elevator equipment.”
Notice was placed in newspapers on October 29, 1928. In the minutes of November 13, 1928 (page 37), the bids were reviewed and Watson Elevator Co. ($4, 217.00) was selected to do the job. A contract was drawn up on June 7, 1929, which is in the collection of the New Jersey Room.
It was originally thought that this elevator was part of the new addition since it was with a contract from July 1929 for items for the new addition. Further digging back, however, revealed the earlier contract with the Burwick Elevator Co., which now totally and unequivocally shows the history of the Main Library’s elevator in the Jersey City Free Public Library, which in 2015, is 86 years old.
This grand old elevator will be replaced by a new disabled-accessible elevator, with a new Handi-lift, created through the Jersey Avenue facade, at the Mercer Street corner, bringing those people with disabilities up to the Main Library’s first floor. A new shaft will be made for the ADA-compliant internal elevator, across from the external Handi-lift. The historic elevator will be stationary on the first floor for public viewing.
Main Library – Renovation Status Update, September 2015