|Brooklyn Public Library, Carroll Gardens Branch
396 Clinton Street
1905, William B. Tubby, Architect
The Carroll Park Branch began in 1901 in rented quarters at Smith and Carroll Streets, and then moved to its current location at Clinton and Union in 1905. The newPress clippings describing the opening ceremony of this, the fifth Carnegie branch library built in Brooklyn, called it "a model one in every respect, large, airy, well-lighted and perfectly equipped." The spacious, 14,000 plus square foot interior has the original dramatic barrel-vaulted ceiling supported by columns and some of the original details.
Designed in the Beaux-Art Classical style by the architect William B. Tubby (1858-1944), it is a modest structure made of red brick and limestone, and features Ionic columns, pediment, arches, roof balustrade, pilasters, and dentilated cornice. It nonetheless has a kind of monumentality and stately presence in its Carroll Gardens neighborhood setting. Tubby was among the top Brooklyn architects. Born in Iowa, Tubby came to Brooklyn to attend Brooklyn Friends School and then Polytechnic Institute, following which he went to work for Ebenezer Roberts, architect of Charles Pratt's house on Clinton Avenue. Tubby succeed to the Roberts practice and designed some of the most distinctive Brooklyn buildings of the 1880s and 1890s, including the Queen Anne row houses at 864 to 872 Carroll Street (1887) in Park Slope, the row houses at 262 to 272 Hicks Street (1887-88) in Brooklyn Heights, the Charles Millard Pratt house (1890-93) on Clinton Avenue, and the 20th Precinct Police Station House (1894-95) on Wilson Avenue in Bushwick.
The Carroll Gardens Branch has always served the large Italian-American community. In 1907, the Brooklyn Eagle reported that free lectures were given in Italian every Sunday evening. In the 1930s, Carroll Gardens was famous for its citizenship classes and services, and helped over 10,000 people secure their citizenship papers. Today, Italian-Americans are joined by a diverse population that includes Latinos and African-Americans.
In 1973, the branch closed for renovations. When it reopened, it was renamed Carroll Gardens, a change requested by the community. In addition to its regular services, the branch also conducts programs for children and adults. The branch is supported by an active Friends group.
The branch recently underwent a $1.5 million renovation that included adding wheelchair ramps and a wheelchair-accessible restroom, as well as an elevator down to the basement level. The Union Street entrance to the building was also widened to become wheelchair accessible.
Excerpts from, An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn, by Francis Morrone, published in 2001 by Gibbs Smith. Used with the author's permission