678 Newark Ave.
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Phone: (201) 547 -4543
Branch Manager: Susan Stewart
Director: Priscilla Gardner (201) 547-4788
Now one of the busiest Regional Branch Libraries in the Jersey City Free Public Library system, the Five Corners Branch Library has been in existence since 1924. Dedicated on June 17th of that year, 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 was great for a modern building to serve the area's burgeoning population. The current building was erected at 678 Newark Avenue, replacing the former Five Corners Branch, as well as the Palisade Avenue Branch, which had been a storefront branch opened in 1932 at 115 Palisade Avenue, across the street from Christ Hospital.
According to Fifty Years of Service 1891-1941, a history of the Jersey City Free Public Library written by Librarian and former President of the Library Board of Trustees Edmund W. Miller, "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." (Miller’s years of service to the people of Jersey City and their Library was honored in 1954 when the Bergen Branch Library was rededicated in his honor as Miller Branch Library.)
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 was home to the Art and Music Reference Collection, as well as the Fine Arts Collection on the Mezzanine, which was a circulating collection of “phonograph records, filmstrips, educational films and framed prints,” along with “record players for listening,” highlighting the technology of the day.
The facility cost $500,000 to build, which is equivalent to more than $4 million today. Designed by architects Hugh C. Clarke and Leroy A. Cowan, Five Corners features a Main Floor for general use, a Mezzanine level, and an auditorium. The building, now in its sixth decade of service and always in a high degree of use, is in need of renovation. This branch is slated to be renovated after the Main Library renovations are complete.
The Mezzanine houses Media Arts, which is a collection of foreign films, educational materials, and modern video and audio recordings. The Chaplain Major Charles Watters Vietnam Veterans Memorial Media Arts Center, located on the Mezzanine, was dedicated on November 19, 1987, the 20th anniversary of his death.
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, 173rd Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade. His heroic actions 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 are also honored at Five Corners Branch Library: Mr. Joseph Nardini, Ms. Carolyn A. Jones, Hon. William J. Timney, and Mrs. Richard E. (Mildred H.) Hunke.
For many years, Joseph Nardini opened the world to youngsters through the hobby of philately, or stamp collecting. Mr. Nardini made stamp collecting exciting by tracing the history of each stamp, and emphasizing the significance of each stamp’s 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. Present at the ceremony were: his widow and sons; Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega, Jr.; Sonia Araujo, supervisor of the Five Corners Branch; and library staff members. Mr. Nardini's portrait and a plaque were unveiled, the plaque citing 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 reads, “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, Heights and Pavonia branches of the library system for 20 years, from 1975 to 1995. Even a year after his passing, 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.”
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.
On March 12, 2002, Library Director Priscilla Gardner and the Board of Trustees 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.
The boardroom at Five Corners is graced with the name of William J. Timney, a man of stature who served for almost two decades on the Library Board of Trustees, much of that time as President. He was President of the Board in 1962, when the Five Corners Branch Library was dedicated and opened to the public.
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. In April 1975, William Timney received from the Library Board of Trustees a commemorative resolution dedicating the boardroom in his honor, presented by then-Board President Mrs. Richard E. Hunke.
A Pennsylvania native, Mr. Timney lived and worked in Jersey City for most of his life. He was educated at St. Peter's College in Jersey City and Fordham University Law School in New York. He served as an instructor at Downtown high school St. Peter's Prep, teaching English and Latin, was 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 an August 19, 1981 article in the Jersey Journal, Mr. 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. Hunke, as she was publicly known, 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.
Mrs. Hunke was appointed to the Board in 1948 by then-Mayor Frank Eggers, and she served for 30 years, from 1948 to 1978. She served as treasurer prior to assuming the board presidency.
Much of Mrs. Hunke’s life was devoted to library work, as evidenced by her involvement 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, Mrs. 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 term 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 the project of reclassifying all library staff positions.
Mrs. Hunke's caring stewardship of the Jersey City Free Public Library also was evident in 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 Moore, who was then the only governor hailing from Hudson County (Jon S. Corzine of Hoboken was later elected governor in 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 3rd Floor of that building, on the west wall outside the New Jersey Room.
Mrs. Hunke received her master’s degree from Columbia University, and advanced study at the University of Madrid. In addition to Spain, she traveled extensively in Europe, South America and the United States. Mrs. Hunke also served as president of the Jersey City Woman's Club. Mrs. Hunke's husband Richard graduated from Dartmouth College and was president of the University Club of Hudson County.
On May 1, 1979, the Jersey City Free Public Library Board of Trustees passed a 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 summary 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.”
As a further honor to 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.
Director Gardner was responsible for the renovation of the state-of-the-art 169-seat Auditorium, which 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 being available to community groups.