History of the Poughkeepsie Public Library District

Adriance Memorial Library

Adriance Memorial Library vintage real photo postcard colorized

Adriance Memorial Library Real Photo Postcard Colorized View from Market Street Facing East

The Adriance Memorial Library is the sixth structure to serve as the home of the public library in Poughkeepsie. Since 1898, it has served the public admirably with its solid, dignified exterior and its richly ornamented, gracious interiors. It is an outstanding example of civic architecture, built in an era noted for its libraries and their enlightened benefactors.

Adriance Memorial Library Real Photo Postcard Colorized View Facing South East

Adriance Memorial Library Real Photo Postcard Colorized View Facing South East

The story of the library in Poughkeepsie, however, predates Adriance by more than a century. As early as the 1790s, accounts appear referencing a library at the Dutchess Academy. Little about this collection is known, but sources indicate that it was a privately owned collection from which volumes were loaned to the public. Through 1840, books in the growing village of Poughkeepsie were loaned, borrowed or rented from both private and commercial sources.

As a result of legislation passed by the New York State Legislature in 1835 and 1838, monies raised by taxation could be used in public institutions to support a library. Under the 1838 Act, money was allocated to the Lancaster School, and in 1839, books were purchased, and a library was established (Cramer, Eldridge & Van Cleef, 1894). On January 19, 1841, the trustees of the Lancaster School announced that their library, numbering 680 volumes, would be open “for use of the residents of the village.” This event established the Poughkeepsie library as the oldest tax supported library in New York State, and one of the oldest in the nation.

Another piece of legislation in 1843 established a Board of Education, and placed the control of the public library and librarian under this Board. At that time, the collection consisted of less than 1,000 volumes and was located in the building that later housed the Phoenix Hose Company. In 1852, the library moved to the second floor of 233-235 Main Street, and moved again in 1862, to the County Courthouse building. A new building was erected in 1872, on the northwest corner of Washington Street and Lafayette Place, in order to house both the high school and the library. By 1893, the collection contained over 18,000 volumes, and had overwhelmed the space (Cramer, Eldridge & Van Cleef, 1894). Additionally, the high school on the second floor proved to be a noisy distraction for patrons.

In 1895, dissatisfied with the arrangement, a committee was formed to visit libraries and obtain a suitable model for a library building. After touring a number of New England libraries, the committee returned with the following recommendations: a central location for the building near, but not on, Main Street, all on one level, with built-in room for future expansion, and fireproof construction.

The prospect of a new library building came much closer to reality when, in June of 1896, a letter was sent to the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council. The letter indicated the wish of the Adriance family to build a library in memory of their parents, the late John P. and Mary J.R. Adriance. This library building would be gifted to the city, provided that the city met certain conditions, including the purchase of a suitable site. The council accepted this offer and its conditions unanimously. A site was selected & submitted to the Adriance family for approval in August of 1896. The approved site, on Market Street, was then readied for a spring groundbreaking.

Historic portrait photo of John P Adriance

John P Adriance

Historic photo of workers laying the cornerstone of the soon to be Adriance Memorial Library

Laying of the Cornerstone for Adriance Memorial Library

The Adriance family chose Charles Frederick Rose as the architect. A former resident who began his career in Poughkeepsie, Rose had since moved to New York City. Very little else is known of his life and career. His design, conceived in the Italianate style of the Beaux Arts tradition so popular at the time, thoughtfully incorporated the recommendations of the 1895 committee. The original structure’s design, having been restored several times, remains largely intact to this day.

Titus and Round, a Poughkeepsie-based contracting firm, was selected to build the structure. The white marble for the exterior came from Adams Marble Company in Adams, MA, and the artificial marble columns and pilasters found in the central lobby were supplied by John Shipway of New York City.

The newly completed Adriance Memorial Library was dedicated in a public ceremony on October 18, 1898. The 23,000 volume collection was moved from the old high school location and for the first time, the library was housed in its own building. The following years saw a marked increase in the community’s use of the library. The collection grew rapidly, and had reached nearly 60,000 volumes by 1920. The need for additional space was clear; a sum of $20,000 was appropriated by the Common Council for the construction of an addition. In April 1922 construction began, and the badly needed addition opened in 1923.  The new space featured for the first time a children’s library, located on the first level, and a three-tier book stack above.

Childrens Room at Adriance 1928

Children's Room at Adriance 1928

Historic photo of the Adriance Memorial Library when it was located at Maplewood

Adriance Memorial Library when located at Maplewood

Historic photo of Adriance Memorial Library when it was lcoated in Red Oaks Mill

Adriance Memorial Library When Located in Red Oaks Mill

In 1959, the library was designated as the Reference Center for the newly formed Mid-Hudson Library System, which continues to serve libraries in Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam and Ulster counties. By the early 1960s, the collection had exceeded 100,000 volumes, and again the need for more space had become apparent. In anticipation of future expansion, the City purchased rear-adjoining properties, demolished the existing structures, and created a parking lot.

In 1966, the library celebrated its 125th Anniversary, earning a write-up in the New York Times. By 1967, a library consultant had reiterated the need for more space, recommending the library nearly double its existing size. Plans were drawn up in 1972, but budgetary limitations throughout the 1970s and 1980s prevented any expansion plans from being realized. The growth of the collection continued, and the level of activity increased from year to year. Numerous minor modifications were made within the building to accommodate this growth, and the collection by the 1980s numbered approximately 130,000 volumes.

Over the years, the library has served several communities at a variety of locations. The library maintained a branch on upper Main Street until budgetary constraints forced it to close in the  1970s, and a  branch was opened in the Maplewood Complex in 1985 that operated until 2004. The City Library served the citizens of the towns of Poughkeepsie and Lagrange until Lagrange formed its own Association Library in 1983, and took over the branch.

In 1987, the public approved and the NYS Legislature enacted a referendum creating a special tax district consisting of the City and Town of Poughkeepsie, with a board appointed by the city Mayor and the Town Supervisor, and a funding formula for local support. Ownership of Adriance Memorial Library was transferred from the City to the District, including responsibility for upkeep and renovation.

In 2007, Adriance Memorial Library underwent a major renovation and expansion project. Having torn down the previous addition built in 1922, the new four-story addition included an elevator, and provided accommodations for an increasing number of patrons, including an entire floor for the children’s and teen rooms. The project also provided space for expanding collections, computer and technology services, and restoring the original 1898 structure to its original condition.

Inside Adriance Memorial Library in the old Children's Room

Inside Adriance Memorial Library Former Children's Room

View additional photos of Adriance Memorial Library here.


Cramer, G.E, Eldridge, E.Q. & Van Cleef, J.S. “Historical Sketch of the Poughkeepsie Public Schools and Public Library from 1843 to 1893.” Enterprise Publishing Co, Poughkeepsie, NY: 1894.