Earl A. Morgan Branch
1841 Kennedy Boulevard
Jersey City, NJ 07305
Phone: (201) 547 - 4553
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Branch Manager: Francina Stevens
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The Earl A. Morgan Branch originally opened in February 1917 in rented rooms at 169-171 Danforth Avenue. Initially known as the Greenville Branch, its success was immediate, and its use increased rapidly. The Library Trustees researched a suitable location to meet the expanding demand, and in 1924, acquired the property of the current site on Kennedy Boulevard. Plans for construction started immediately thereafter. The cornerstone was laid in July 1925, with building completion in October 1926.
The new Greenville Branch Library, on the southwest corner of Kennedy Boulevard (then known as Hudson Boulevard) and Stevens Avenue, opened to the public in 1927. The building is two stories high with a basement, and is built of stone and salmon-colored brick. The architecture is an adaptation of the Renaissance style, modified to meet modern requirements, by architect Albert S. Gottlieb of New York City. The architect was associated with John A. Gurd, architect of the original Bergen and Pavonia branches. The first floor is large and light-filled, containing a Children’s Room, general Reading Room, and bookstacks.
The second floor of the building houses two large rooms that were originally used for exhibition and other library purposes; since the early 1980s, the second floor has been home to the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society Museum, the only museum of its type in the state of New Jersey.
The formal dedication ceremony of the newly built Greenville Branch Library occurred on January 13, 1927 amidst the flourish and fanfare befitting the era of the Roaring ‘20s. A commemorative booklet, complete with photographs and an Art Deco cover design, described the attributes of the new Greenville Branch in vivid detail. “The number of books circulated for home use last year was 164,991 and in addition 17,830 volumes were used in the building. The number of persons using the reading and reference rooms in 1926 was 64,869.”
According to an article in the January 13, 1927 issue of the Jersey Journal, New Jersey Governor Harry A. Moore, a Jersey City native, was expected to address the audience, as well as Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague. Other dignitaries scheduled to speak were Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Dr. James A. Nugent, “Miss” Sarah Askew of the New Jersey State Library Commission, and former Judge William H. Speer of the Library Board of Trustees.
The Dickinson High School orchestra and the junior choruses of Lincoln and Dickinson High Schools, under the direction of Professor Moritz Schwartz, performed. Library Board President Alvoni Allen presided at the ceremonies.
Library Director Priscilla Gardner led a $4.8 million renovation and redesign project in 2008, garnering an award from the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy. Greenville re-opened to great fanfare on Monday, January 26, 2009. The regional branch library is now fully ADA-compliant, with disabled access and routes available within the library, as well as to the Afro-American Historical Society Museum on the second floor. All new furnishings grace the first floor, where the Children’s Room, Reading Room, and bookstacks are located.
Director Gardner approached the Board of Trustees to have the newly renovated state-of-the-art auditorium named the Barack Obama Auditorium, in honor of our nation’s first African-American president. A formerly unused area, it has now become a well-used space, with a seating capacity of 128, including seating spaces set aside for people with disabilities, and new lighting.
In October 2018, the branch was rededicated in honor of the late journalist and community hero Earl A. Morgan. On the occasion of the dedication ceremony, Director Gardner noted that Morgan was a frequent visitor and friend of the Jersey City Free Public Library, where he immersed himself in local history and researched the broad array of subjects that captured his interest.
“On behalf of all those in Jersey City who loved Earl Morgan, we are proud to honor his memory,” Gardner said. “Earl was a tireless advocate for our city and all of the people in it. We will always miss Earl dearly, but it is heartening to know that all those who come to the Library and use its services will remember his contributions for years and decades to come.”