B. F. Jones Memorial Library: Forged in Steel Terri Bogolea Gallagher



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B.F. JONES MEMORIAL LIBRARY IS RESEARCHED AND BUILT

The Jones family members were proponents of the adage, “Rome was not built in a day.” Extensive investigation and planning went into Elisabeth Horne’s public library gift.

Architect Smith and Liaison Moreland were charged with creating a library of beauty and use that did not smack of paternalism.71 A.O. Wilson Company of Pittsburgh was chosen as general contractor. Maitland Wilson, son of the company’s founder, would be well-appreciated for his efforts in making the building a reality that Horne would present him with a watch for his work.72 Moreland approached the building of the library with the detail of a scholarly researcher: he gathered his own library of resources about libraries including Bostwick’s The American Library, library budget literature, library equipment company brochures, and a 100-library analysis of libraries across the United States.73 Moreland would study how libraries in all areas of the country were financed, how much they would cost to build, numbers or employees and even how they were insured and their relationship to schools.74

An architect was selected by Horne: Brandon Smith of the Pittsburgh firm of Bartholomew and Smith who had toured Aliquippa with Horne on her visit. Smith was chosen, not by competition as many library architects were chosen of the time for library projects but by reputation as “the ablest great house planner” Pittsburgh had ever known.75 Like Moreland, Smith was expected to do his homework. Brandon Smith is known for designing the Edgeworth Country Club House and Sewickley Heights homes of Benjamin Franklin Jones, William Latimer Jones, Rhea Beck and other wealthy Pittsburgh socialites; he had a reputation as an “eclectic for blending classical elements and the use of light and airiness for function.”76

Scouting visits were made by Horne’s brigade to other libraries to glean input to the Aliquippa project. Stops included public libraries in: Gary Indiana, April 23, 1926; Kenosha, Wisconsin, April 24, 1926; Milwaukee, Wisconsin April 24, 1926; Erie, May 13, 1926; Williamsport, PA, May 14, 1926; Johnstown, May 15, 1926.77

After the information was gathered, Moreland continued to oversee the building of the library with intensity of a new parent. Weekly reports and photos were sent to Horne so she had a handle on the progress as she traveled between residences and vacation spots from Park Avenue, Palm Beach to Deep Creek, Maryland.78 At the arrival of a telegram, Moreland was available to board a train to New York to consult on the profile of the bronze cast of his former boss, Benjamin Franklin Jones, or offer opinion on a library problem for Horne.79

The physical work on the memorial library began in 1927. Lots were conveyed from Woodlawn Land Company to Horne: lots 293, 295, 297, 299 in addition to lots 281, 283, 285, 287, 281, 299 were marked for the building of the library on Franklin Avenue. The building was staked out by Architect Smith and A.O. Wilson.80 A ground breaking ceremony was conducted on July 18, 1927. The cornerstone was laid in November. Work would continue for the next year and a half. Horne would be apprised of projects through Moreland but signed the check herself through the Union Trust Company account assigned specifically for the library.81

Figure 4: The library is built across from company houses. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.


The work remained steady for the building of the library as laborers, craftsmen, artists and consultants frequented the site, perched on a rise across from a line of company-built residences. Family businesses provided some of the wares. Steel was provided by Jones and Laughlin. Interior decor items were provided by the Joseph Horne Company, owned by Elisabeth Horne’s in-laws. (Horne married, had children with and divorced the son of the Pittsburgh department store owner, Joseph Horne. She remained an heir to the Horne fortune.)82

The only minor glitches were a drainage reroute and a delay in some of the stone arriving but for the most part, planning and detail led to a fluid project. The original projection of costs rose but correspondences reveal that Horne’s plan to make the library the best overruled most cost considerations. That is not to imply free spending; Moreland, Horne, Smith, and accountants kept track of dollars. Correspondences debated contractor or artist choice. The choice of the renowned Oscar Bach was such a case for discussion on the wrought iron work.83 A few local tradesmen applied for subcontracting work.

Skilled stonecutters, carvers, casters and plasterers, who were more artists than tradesmen, were required for much of the exterior and interior decorative work on the library. Final costs for the building, property and contents are estimated at $465,000. Horne earmarked $17,000 for books; a Robert Aitken bronze statue of B.F. Jones Memorial alone cost $27,500.84 (See Appendix A for cost breakdown.)

In addition, Jones and Laughlin donated a technical book collection valued at $5,000 and Horne’s siblings donated miscellaneous items from a refrigerator and subscriptions of Harper’s and Godey’s to accent pillows. At the time of the library opening, newspapers and publications estimated the library’s cost at $465,000 to a half million dollars. Librarian Susan Himmelwright, interviewed several times, was not specific on the dollar amount in initial press coverage.85

Himmelwright, who would serve as the head librarian at B.F. Jones Memorial Library through its birth until 1950, was involved heavily in the collection process for the new library and was well respected by Moreland, Horne, the Jones and Laughlin corporate offices, and colleagues in librarianship.86 According to the visitor’s records of the ALA archives, Himmelwright journeyed to the ALA office in 1929. Documentation only tracks the visit not its purpose; however, Himmelwright was a researcher too. The ALA also has possession of suggested reading quotations and lists from B.F. Jones Memorial Library about the time of construction.87 Himmelwright was adamant in insisting on ALA standards and membership for the library as well as supplying Smith’s plans for the library and project information to ALA. She served on Commonwealth Libraries state planning committee in the early 1930s with a group of other “eminent librarians.”88

From the start, Susan Himmelwright is recommended strongly to remain head librarian due to her professionalism.89 The start-up collection for B.F. Jones would include 7, 151 books transferred from the Woodlawn borough facility in addition to the books purchased with Horne’s $15,000 and the technical collection donated by Jones and Laughlin. The Carnegie Institute was consulted on collection choices.90 In 1929, the library would register 8,737 borrowers. In Himmelwright’s 1937 report, when analyzing the books borrowed for the year, she broke down by classification books circulated from most to least: fiction led, followed by books for little children, sociology, useful arts, travel, science, literature, history, biography, fine arts, pamphlets, religion, philosophy, philology, general, and periodicals. Books from the technical collection and foreign titles were still important to the circulation numbers in the 1930s at the Aliquippa library.91

By this time, the library had also opened two school book stations in the town’s schools. Himmelwright through her programming stresses an alliance with Aliquippa schools. In 1928, high school students were placed in a formal training program to become library aides.in the new library. Students visited the library for regular school programming. Mother Goose story time was popular when the library opened. In 1930, when Horne delivered a story hour, more than 300 school children attended. The benefactress was delighted.92 Himmelwright, who would remain head librarian until 1950, is a visible library advocate, even authoring several library columns in the local Evening Times.93 Himmelwright was also very conscious of the connection between the company, Horne, and the library’s success.94 Throughout this process and years, she balances the politics of the position. Other than collection and staff, Himmelwright’s role with the building of the library included furniture consultation with Moreland.

THE ARCHITECTURE

A 19-year veteran of the Jones and Laughlin Tin Mill—a section of the Jones and Laughlin plant— visited the library before it was open to the public. He was part of a work crew putting the final touches— light replacement, weather tighting—on the building before the doors were opened. Moreland wrote that the man was “carried away” by the beauty of the building. He relayed to Horne that the tin mill worker said that no one could imagine the building’s beauty unless they saw the inside of the building in person.95 Besides the social significance of the library, the architectural design, engineering, and accoutrements that remain impressive today at the Aliquippa Library and were the key to its selection as a National Historic Place.96

The architecture and design of B.F. Jones Memorial Library is primarily credited to the classical and sometimes offbeat vision of Brandon Smith, along with a splash of color consultation by New York Color Architect Nora Thorpe.

The lines of the library are classical. The T-shaped Library is built of Indian limestone structure of restrained Italian Renaissance Design.97 A one-story structure approximately 132 by 72 feet with a full basement, the building showcases four ionic columns supporting recessed colonnades on the façade of each of two wings of the library. Each wing also boasts three thirty-pane window, as do the building sides.98 Entablatures showcase detailed spiral carving. A two-flight stairway approaches the main entry_ a double doorway of bronze, wrought iron and glass.99 The ornamental gutter-eave or cheneau is detailed cast bronze. Below the cheneau, the words- Philosophy, Biology, Astronomy, Fiction, History, Science, Painting, Music Sculpture, Drama, Poetry and Romance are carved and beckon to those who enter to learning. Library buildings themselves—as Rayward and Jenkins discussed concerning libraries during times of war, revolution and social change—infer substance, physical presence, solidity, permanence and continuity.100 A library building is often housed to “evoke awe, even reverence.”101 The authors referred to the library as symbolic of stability and organizational identity.102 With the B.F. Jones Memorial Library, Smith achieved this aim from threshold to exits.

Inside the library, the entry walls are finished in Kasota stone, a limestone quarried in Minnesota while the floor is travertine imported from Italy; the ornate foyer ceiling is an Italian reproduction.103 A bronze statue of B. F. Jones himself, cast by New York artist, Robert Aitken, sits on a foundation of Vermont marble. The commissioned statue of the steel magnate cost $27,500 at the time of its creation.104


Figure 5: Bronze Statue of B.F. Jones. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

Aitken’s dossier includes an award winning memorial sculpture to writer Bret Harte, a monument to Admiral Dewey, a sculpture of architect Cass Gilbert, and pediment sculpture at the main entrance of the Supreme Count Building (in which the author included his own likeness).105

Near the sculpture, the stairwell extends to the basement and what was used as the exhibition room and lobby on the lower floor. The stairs have a bronze stair rail and center panels modeled by the president of the General Bronze Company; this company furnished the bronze work and the owner wanted something of his own creation in the memorial building. Bronze door frames, birds, flower, book, and torch motifs are showcased as ornamental work.106
Figure 6: The Circulation Desk 1930. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

The lobby spotlights another rare work of art: screens made of hand wrought iron with bronze medallions by Oscar Bach, named in Smith’s description as one of the leading wrought iron craftsmen in the United States of the time.107 Medallions on one side of the screen depict the iron and steel industry; the other side portrays the world of a child. Wall medallions of imported Italian marble are also highlighted in the lobby. Light showers the lobby from a Smith trademark skylight high above the circulation desk. The ceiling is ornamental plaster created by the skilled workman of the Joseph Horne Company; colors are chosen by Nora Thorpe.108


Figure 7: Adult Reading Room. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

The adult reading room features Renaissance style ornamental plaster and travertine marble floors. Walls are constructed of manufactured stone made in the Pittsburgh area.109 The room focal point is a portrait of Benjamin Franklin Jones by Theobald Chartran painted in 1892 and presented as a gift to the library by his daughter-in-law, Mrs. B.F Jones Jr. Chartran was a French academic painter of celebrated Americans and also painted Senator Matthew Quay, another western Pennsylvania famous figure, and millionaire Charles Schwab110

Figure 8: B.F. Jones Portrait. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

The reference room of the library features cast stone, Cretan, which is carved after casting by artists and was first popularized during the Norman Renaissance.111 The Junior Reading Room of the library received special attention by the architect because of Horne’s interest in children.112 Faux plaster beams are painted to look like gum wood, and polychrome terracota copies of the Andrea della Robbia Bambino works found in the Foundling Hospital of Florence are represented.113 A polychrome terra cotta fountain is also highlighted. A plaster frieze above Bach’s wrought iron screen exemplifies music, tragedy and comedy.


Figure 9: Elisabeth Horne. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

Another key point of the room is Elisabeth Horne’s portrait by Alfred Hoen, Dutch painter who painted society portraits in American and France. A map of Fairyland imported from England is also showcased. The doorway between the room and the children’s story room features an ornate frieze of the world of a child. 114

The story hour room, which today is the library director’s office, contains a series of leaded glass windows illustrating nursery rhymes. The stained glass was leaded by Henry Hunt of Pittsburgh, a premier glass artist of city churches, at the cost of $675. The Miss Muffet window even sports the intricate spider in stained glass work. The fireplace is built of Cretan and Norman lines; the floor is tiled with insect patterns.115


Figure 10: Children’s Story Room. Used by permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

The architectural detail of the library continued in the basement of the library with Doric styles, glazed terracotta and an alcove with statuary and gum wood attributes, the only wood décor in the building. A large exhibition room to accommodate crowds, staffroom, kitchen, work room, furnace room, fan room, and elevator completed the building and provided ample work space for employees and preparation of collection materials. The ventilation system was designed to cleanse the outside air before pumping it through the rooms of the library. Outside, a fenced garden added more beauty and sculpture for library visitors. Smith’s designs were lauded by The National Historic Register review as a blend of form and function.

Smith himself praised the workers:

In its construction, there was an unusual spirit amongst the workmen, each trying to put his best into his part of the work. When it was finished and they came to see the work of their hands, the plasterers, the painters, the stone masons – each felt they had never done so good a job as this.116


THE CARNEGIE CONNECT

Documents do not draw a direct link between the Carnegie movement and the erection of the B.F. Jones Memorial Library. However, for this time period, just following the Carnegie national library campaign, and this period in western Pennsylvania steel history, it would be impossible to claim that there was no connection by the Jones family and the company to Carnegie and his movement.

The elder B.F. Jones knew Andrew Carnegie when he was a boy. Carnegie worked as a telegram runner when a lad. B.F. Jones, already a steel leader in the smoky city, was the recipient of young Carnegie’s deliveries. Carnegie claimed that he learned Morse code so he could take Jones his messages because of the generous 25 cent tip.117 In addition, both men were steel barons based in the city of Pittsburgh. Both had Presbyterian roots in the town where the three rivers met. They had neighboring summer homes, both today confusingly labeled Braemar, in Cresson, PA118 In the past two decades, Jones’ Queen Anne mansion has become the target of a preservation crusade. For years, the Jones abode was mistakenly thought to have been the Carnegie home by locals; next door, the smaller, still-inhabited Carnegie cottage site was probably the true Braemar. However, both buildings utilize the name today. When Carnegie wrote Triumphant Democracy, a signed copy was kept in the Jones family library of B.F. Jones. It is on the shelves in the director’s office of the B.F. Jones Library today, inscribed “To my friend Benjamin Franklin Jones with genuine respect and admiration, Andrew Carnegie.”119

In matters of librarianship, documentation of the connection is not so forthcoming but merits exploration. The Carnegie campaign exemplified what such wealth could accomplish for librarianship; the Joneses did this on an individual scale. Library history in the early twentieth century and library philanthropy cannot be examined, even for non-Carnegie libraries, without a look at the Carnegie story. Perusal of the scads of studies of the Carnegie effort— when Steel King Carnegie girded the construction bills of new libraries from America’s metropolises to whistle stops— is integral to understanding the times and precedent set. In 1919, of the 3500 public libraries in the nation, Carnegie cash had built more than half.120 Preeminent Carnegie historian and architectural expert Abigail Van Slyck penned the influence of the Carnegie library program reached far beyond the 1,679 Carnegie-built American public libraries themselves. Carnegie’s philosophy, writings, and beliefs spurred other philanthropists to found and support libraries, at the local level.121 The industrialist’s discovery of how this could be done more adeptly—especially in library design and architecture—was embraced by public library founders and builders to come.122 The Carnegie model redefined the role of the public library and its adaptation as information deliverer; this too, concluded Van Slyck, served to ground the philosophy of librarianship of the future.123 Van Slyck stated that Carnegie’s gauntlet was picked up and wielded by others; Carnegie gloried in the imitation.124 One could not help but think the Jones project would create such sentiment.

In 1969, library historian George Bobinski wrote that historians had not evaluated Carnegie’s library gifts in-depth for their significance to library development.125 He compared references to Carnegie’s philanthropy as that of noble benefactor to egotist and many roles in between. In Bobinski’s work, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Director Ralph Munn’s concept is presented: Carnegie prodded library development and promoted the library movement but also constructed small town libraries with a dearth of services and little support.126 This does not seem to be the case with Horne in the few years that she lived following the erection of the library. She remained ever-present with communications and even a few visits for tea and storytime.127 Bobinski also highlighted the opinions of European William Munthe who coveted for Europe the American Carnegie movement with its stacks for all classes and a library in nearly every town, great and small.128 Bobinski himself stated that Carnegie validated the library as an institution, spurred on other library benefactors and rooted the tenet of local government responsibility for public libraries.

Libraries were not gifted by Carnegie without the promise of the town’s ongoing fiscal support.129 Elisabeth Horne’s gift too came with the agreement that ongoing support would come from the council and town coffers.130 However, it is not documented whether this stemmed from belief that the mill dollars would always pour into the town till or the Carnegie philosophy of communities standing on their own feet.

While the well-known Smith’s drawings and design with unique touches could not be mistaken for copies of Carnegie architect’s renderings or plans, the overall floor plan did adopt some of the Carnegie features. In the twentieth century, newly built public libraries were often Carnegie-influenced plans of symmetrical buildings, marked by trends of the modern time riven with classical and Renaissance detailing.131 Open plans, children and adult reading areas with central delivery desk for oversight were the preferred blueprint. Many of these early twentieth century buildings and their architecture endure today and now symbolize libraries to the American people.
Figure 11 : Original Floor Plans. Used with permission of B.F. Jones Memorial Library.

THE UNVEILING

The Carnegie style may have even insinuated itself into the well-planned and orchestrated unveiling of the library also. Memoranda from the Jones and Laughlin Company and mill archives sent Librarian Himmelwright copies of the Homestead and Southside Carnegie opening programs to be used for reference in creating the B.F. Jones publication for the grand gala. In addition, a Carnegie Art program sported typeface preferred by Horne. The company tracked down the Philadelphia printer used at the Carnegie event and informed Himmelwright of Horne’s choice.

After that, the library opening became B.F. Jones original.

The debut of the library included a private showing by invitation only and then the grand opening event. Himmelwright was responsible for invitation lists, guided by Horne and Moreland. The program, preserved in the state library and B.F. Jones Library archives, delineated event speakers: Willis King, mill officer and nephew of the founder, Mill Superintendent Girdler, Borough Solicitor W.D. Craig and William D. Evans, general counsel for Jones and Laughlin Company.132

King, Jones’ relation who joined the Jones and Laughlin and Company in 1869, was the first speaker for the day and reviewed Jones’s heritage, career and family. He remarked on Jones’ dedication to the best things: social, domestic, and national. King agreed the memorial library lived up to Jones’ “high ideals and lofty aims.”133 Craig accepted the gift of the library from Horne whose comment was that she hoped the community’s joy in receiving it could only equal her joy in giving the library.134 William D. Evans commented on the importance of libraries and the hope they offer the young. He also made disparaging comment on the fleeting fashion of fiction or the “fiction problem,” a common social commentary for the day.135 Girdler welcomed the crowd and complimented the library. The Rev. Clarence Edward Macartney of Pittsburgh, a prominent Presbyterian minister, delivered the invocation and blessing.

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