Now one of the regional branch libraries within the Jersey City Free Public Library system, the Five Corners Branch has been in existence since 1924. Dedicated on June 17 th , the Five Corners Branch initially served the neighborhood in the rented space of a two-family house at 558 Summit Avenue. By the early 1960s, the need for a modern building to serve the area's burgeoning population surfaced. The current building was erected at 678 Newark Avenue, replacing the old Five Corners and Palisade Avenue branches. The latter branch, instituted in 1932 at 115 Palisade Avenue, was a storefront library across the street from Christ Hospital.
According to the Library's history in Fifty Years of Service 1891-1941 , written by Librarian Edmund W. Miller, then-president of the Board of Trustees, "Several small branches in other parts of the City had been planned but any further extension of the branches had to be abandoned because of the depression." The Bergen Branch later was rededicated on December 9, 1954 when renamed in honor of Miller.
At its dedication on June 10, 1962, the Five Corners Branch Library opened with fanfare, heralding a new era for cultural and arts presentations. Nicknamed the Fine Arts Library, Five Corners hosted the Fine Arts Collection on the Mezzanine and the Art and Music Reference Collection, where lending of "phonograph records, filmstrips, educational films and framed prints" occurred, with "record players for listening," highlighting the technology of the day.
Today, the Mezzanine houses Media Arts, which is a collection of foreign films, educational materials, modern video (VHS & DVDs) and audio recordings (CDs). The Chaplain Major Charles Watters Vietnam Veterans Memorial Media Arts Center , located on the Mezzanine, was dedicated on November 19, 1987, the 20 th anniversary of his death.
Chaplain Major Charles Watters
Charles Joseph Watters, born in Jersey City on January 17, 1927, was a recipient of the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." Watters was a major in the U.S. Army, Company A, 173d Support Battalion, 173d Airborne Brigade. His heroism occurred near Dak To Province, Republic of Vietnam, on November 19, 1967.
A plaque, detailing Major Watters' gallantry, is on display in the Media Arts area on the Mezzanine at the Five Corners Branch Library.
Four other distinguished individuals also merited notice at Five Corners Branch Library, Joseph Nardini, Carolyn A. Jones, former Municipal Court Judge William J. Timney and Mrs. Richard E. (Mildred H.) Hunke.
For many years, Joseph Nardini opened the world to youngsters by showing them the importance of philately, or stamp collecting. Mr. Nardini made stamp collecting exciting by tracing the history of each stamp, and emphasizing the significance of each origin. Children of all ages, from all schools throughout Jersey City, came to hear about stamps from Mr. Nardini, whose personal mission was to teach them, through stamps, about other parts of the world.
The Jersey City Free Public Library honored Joseph Nardini in August 1998 with a boardroom commendation. His widow and sons; Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega Jr.; Sonia Araujo, supervisor of the Five Corners Branch; and library staff members attended the ceremony, where Mr. Nardini's portrait and a plaque were unveiled. The plaque cites Joseph Nardini "for his countless hours of contribution to the children of The Five Corners Branch Library in recognition of stamp collection, he not only inspired the many children with his stamps of the world but also aided in their geographic education." Under these words, the plaque says, "May his spirit live on / The Nardini Family 1998."
Joseph Nardini was a retired banker who gave much to the children of Jersey City through his stamp clubs at the Five Corners, The Heights and Pavonia branches of the library system for 20 years, from 1975 to 1995. Even a year after his death, which occurred in April 1997 at age 73, his students at the Five Corners commendation ceremony remembered him as a "tour guide to the world."
Carolyn A. Jones
On the second floor of Five Corners is another plaque and photograph, which is a special posthumous commendation, honoring library staff member Carolyn A. Jones.
Dated March 12, 2002, the Board of Trustees, Administration, and Staff of the Jersey City Free Public Library commended the former head of the Media Arts Center, Carolyn A. Jones, who was an employee for 25 years, from 1969-1994. Ms. Jones was tragically killed by a speeding automobile as she was helping her blind sister cross John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City.
Honorable William J. Timney
The boardroom at Five Corners is graced with the name of William J. Timney, a man of stature who served on the library board and was president of the Board of Trustees in 1962. His name also appears on a plaque, commemorating the new branch library built in 1962.
In April 1975, William Timney received the commemorative resolution from the Library Board of Trustees, dedicating the boardroom in his honor, presented by then-Board President Mrs. Richard E. Hunke. Mr. Timney retired from the library board in 1974 after 18 years as a library trustee and 16 years as board president. His tenure lasted from 1956 to December 31, 1974.
Pennsylvania native William J. Timney lived and worked in Jersey City for most of his life, having educated himself at St. Peter's College and then, Fordham University Law School in New York. He served as an instructor at St. Peter's Prep, teaching English and Latin, prior to being admitted to the New Jersey Bar in 1926, and was vice dean of the John Marshall Law School in Jersey City from 1931 before it merged with the Seton Hall Law School.
Mr. Timney made his home in the Greenville section of Jersey City. He embarked on a long, distinguished career in government, first serving as the assistant corporation counsel of the Jersey City Law Department, and later, as a Jersey City Municipal judge for many years.
William Timney also served in county government, becoming assistant corporation counsel for the Hudson County Law Department, then, finishing his illustrious career as president of the Jersey City Law Library.
According to the August 19, 1981 article in The Jersey Journal , William J. Timney was in legal partnership with George R. Blaney at 26 Journal Square. Mr. Blaney had this to say about his law partner of many years, "William was one of the finest gentlemen I've ever known. He was an excellent teacher and professor.a man of high integrity."
Mrs. Richard E. (Mildred H.) Hunke
Mrs. Richard E. Hunke, as she publicly wished to be addressed, succeeded William J. Timney as president of the Jersey City Free Public Library Board of Trustees on January 14 1975, the first woman to hold the office of board president when elected to the position by the board of trustees.
The Library Board originally appointed Mrs. Hunke in 1948 by Jersey City Mayor Frank Eggers, and she served as treasurer prior to assuming the board presidency. Mildred H. Hunke served for 30 years, from 1948 to 1978.
Much of her life was devoted to library work, as evidenced in Mrs. Hunke's involvements in the New Jersey Library Trustees Association: State President (1958-1960), Delegate-At-Large (1951-1952), Secretary-Treasurer (1952-1956), followed by her election as president, then vice president.
In 1962, Mildred Hunke received the honor of being named "Library Trustee of the Year" by the New Jersey Library Trustees Association, citing her outstanding success as a trustee of the Jersey City Free Public Library and as an officer of the state association.
During her 30-year reign as a Trustee for the Jersey City Free Public Library, Mrs. Hunke assisted in the campaign for the passage of the federal Library Services Act, assisted in the development of the Bookmobile (which began traveling on the road in March 1954) and in the development of the new branch at Five Corners. She also participated in developing the entire reclassification of library staff.
Mrs. Hunke's caring stewardship of the Jersey City Free Public Library also was evident in the finding of a photograph in the November 14, 1975 issue of The Jersey Journal . The photo depicts Mrs. Hunke with Mrs. E. Royden Weeks, niece of New Jersey's three-term governor, A. Harry Moore. Mrs. Weeks donated an oil painting of the only governor hailing from Hudson County (that is, until the election of Jon S. Corzine, Hoboken, on November 8, 2005). The family accepted the invitation of then-city historian J. Owen Grundy to have the oil painting placed on permanent display at the Main Library. The painting can be found on the 3 rd Floor, on the west wall from the New Jersey Room, northward.
Mildred H. Hunke received her masters degree from Columbia University, and advanced study at the University of Madrid. As well as Spain, she has traveled extensively in Europe, South America and the United States. Mrs. Hunke also had served as president of the Jersey City Woman's Club. Mrs. Hunke's husband Richard graduated from Dartmouth College and had been president of the University Club of Hudson County.
On May 1, 1979, the Jersey City Free Public Library Board of Trustees passed an enabling Resolution naming the auditorium at the Five Corners Branch Library in honor of Mrs. Richard E. Hunke. The Resolution cited Mrs. Hunke for having "served with distinction, devotion and competence during this period, given generously of her great gifts of high character and superior judgment and providing strong and effective leadership which has guided and strengthened the Jersey City Public Library in seeking ever better and more meaningful service to the people of Jersey City."
Mrs. Hunke, herself, had a one-word answer for all the time and effort she put into her work as a library trustee for Jersey City, and for the state library association: "Satisfaction."
In wanting to further honor this woman's efforts on behalf of her board work with the Jersey City Free Public Library, the auditorium was dedicated with her own name, in full: The Mildred H. Hunke Auditorium.
This $500,000 (1962 dollars) facility, designed by architects Hugh C. Clarke and Leroy A. Cowan, features a Main Floor for general use, where Public Access computers now are available to both adults and children.
The auditorium at Five Corners, which seats 169 people, continues to be the center of much educational and cultural activity at the branch, thus carrying on its initial mission for presenting films, concerts and lectures, and in being available to community groups.