In 1889, the city of Scranton decided it was ready to start a public library. The city council stipulated that $25,000 be raised by the citizens of Scranton in order to ensure interest in having a public library.
The Citizens' Subscription Fund was started. 141 people contributed over $25,000, ranging in donations of three dollars to over a thousand.
At the same time, as good fortune would have it, a former Scranton resident was looking for a way to memorialize his parents. His name was John Joseph Albright, and he was a resident of Buffalo, NY. His parents, Joseph Jacob and Elizabeth Sellars Albright, had recently passed away.
John Joseph Albright
Mr. Albright and his brother and sisters donated the land on which the Library would be built. It was the site of the old family homestead, on the corner of Vine Street and North Washington Avenue. The building itself was a gift of Mr. Albright, and he asked that it be named after his parents.
Scranton City Council accepted the gift in 1890. Thus, plans for the Scranton Public Library Albright Memorial Building were underway. Work began on the building in 1891 and was completed in 1893.
The architects who worked on the building were Messrs. Green and Wicks of Buffalo. The building was designed with the idea of giving the principal view of what would be a splendid exterior from the intersection of the two streets.
The Library was modeled after the French chateau monastery, Musee de Cluny, which was in the style of the early renaissance. This was considered the best period of French architecture.
The exterior of the building is composed of Indiana limestone in a warm gray color above a base of brown Medina stone, all laid in course ashlar. The building has high, steeply-pitched roofs; there are twelve dormer gables covered in black Spanish tiles. In the panels of the dormers and on other parts of the building, there are symbols of notable bookmakers elaborately carved in the stonework.
The window sash are made of iron in an English casement style, with the glass leaded in various patterns.
There are large stained-glass windows placed in prominent portions of the building. The subjects of these windows were the majestic book bindings of past centuries.
These bindings were designed for the likes of such famous historical figures as Queen Elizabeth I and Catherine de Medici. The windows are in a transom set up, in which one window is built over another window that is hinged to a horizontal crossbar. Each window has its own design, ornamentation, and color scheme.
The beautiful quartered oak woodwork inside the Library was fashioned by John Benari & Son. The floor of the entrance hall is composed of marble mosaic. The ceiling of the enclosed foyer is also a mosaic.
Frederick Law Olmstead
There are two bronze tablets in the foyer which were presented to the city at the public celebration of the Library's 40th Anniversary in 1933. One commemorates Henry James Carr, our first librarian. The other perpetuates the memory of the donors of the building and its site.
There are three magnificent fireplaces of imported Italian marble on the first floor. The building was originally illuminated by electricity and heated by steam.
The grounds around the Library were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who is heralded as the father of American landscape architecture. The design itself was completed in the 1890s, but due to a lack of funding, the actual landscaping was not to be realized until August 1999.
The current Children's Library, located right next to the Albright Building in the Marion M. Isaacs Building, opened its doors in 1987. The Lackawanna County Library System bought the 51-year-old Christian Science Church, located at 520 Vine Street, in 1985. Subsequently, the old church was turned into a magical place for our area's children. Prior to this, the Children's Department had been a section of the main floor of the Albright Building.
Albright Memorial Library, Just after Opening
The Albright Memorial Library was dedicated on May 25, 1893. The Library opened its doors to the public on June 1, 1893. Over 100 years later, the Library is still the heart of the Scranton community. The Albright Memorial Building is not only a place where education and enlightenment occur, but it is also an historic architectural treasure to be enjoyed by everyone. The Albright Memorial Library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.