Poppenhusen Library open after building’s restoration

By Cynthia Koons

Partygoers remembered the Poppenhusen branch of the Queens Library when there were dances held across the street and when 12-year-olds weren't even allowed upstairs.

“I'm very happy that the children's library is back downstairs because when we were children, that's where Dorothy and I used to go,” said Lynda Zanetti, a 57-year resident of College Point. She and her lifelong friend, Dorothy Conforti, reminisced about the days when they weren't allowed upstairs in the library until they turned 12.

The Poppenhusen branch of the library underwent more than a year's worth of restoration work before reopening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week. The exterior and interior were repaired to replicate their original look.

“It was actually the people of College Point – 400 people, 400 residents chipped in and bought the land and donated it to the city for a library,” Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said.

That was in 1901, Susan Brustmann of the Poppenhusen Institute said. By 1904, the structure for the Carnegie library was erected and the building was filled with books. It was in 1904 that the library became part of the Queens Library system.

“The library may be 100 years old, but it goes back a little further because it started in the Poppenhusen Institute in 1884,” she said.

She read a quote from a librarian who worked in the Poppenhusen Institute when the books were transferred into the current library branch.

'The result of the consolidation of the Poppenhusen Institute Library with Queens Borough Public Library is apparently a happy one,'” Brustmann read of Katherine C. Finan's words. “'New life is strongly infused in the atmosphere of the Poppenhusen Library that progress all along the line of library work is hailed.'”

In the renovated branch last Thursday, children poured into the new reading-room basement after the ribbon-cutting ceremony upstairs. The library officially opened Monday.

Zanetti said she visited the library the day it reopened, twice.

“I don't think it was a long time for the amount of work that was done,” she said of the branch's closing. “For those of us who use the library, it seemed like a long time.”

In the new branch, surfaces were paneled in mahogany-colored wood and a new ceiling held brighter light fixtures. Computerized self-checkout machines were available and Internet-ready computers also served visitors.

“It's exactly what we wished and the community is going to be pleased,” library trustee George Stamatiades said. “The renovation was brought about because of the need for the infrastructure, and to better serve the children.”

Prior to the rehabilitation, library-goers said the building was in obvious need of work.

“It was dismal looking,” Frances Czepiel, an 80-year resident of College Point said. She remembers College Point as a beautiful town when outdoor dances were held across the street from the library.

The reopening seemed to bring the community together again at least for the one day. Older residents listened to live ragtime performers, children listened while their parents read to them and local politicians listened to constituents.

“This is such an asset,” state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) said. “And such a valuable contribution to our community.”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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