Albright Memorial Library

French Gothic

In the period spanning 1891-1893, the architectural duo Green & Wicks, hailing from Buffalo, NY, undertook the design of a significant edifice in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This initiative was stimulated by the endeavors of a specialized committee within the Scranton Board of Trade, which, circa 1889, aimed to establish a free public library within the city. Concurrently, Mr. John Joseph Albright, a former Scranton resident residing in Buffalo, contemplated a philanthropic contribution to Scranton in memorial tribute to his parents, Joseph J. and Elizabeth Albright.

The convergence of these aspirations led to Mr. Albright generously endowing a library, situated prominently at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Vine Street, on the Albright homestead. Commencing construction in June 1891, the project reached completion in June 1893, incurring a cost of $125,000. The architectural vision, realized by Green & Wicks, aspired to impart completeness, structural integrity, and exemplarity to the resultant library. A distinguishing feature of this public edifice is its creation of communal space, facilitated by its right-angle construction, a rarity among civic structures in the city. More

Originally configured with an open second floor overlooking the first, the library incorporated a balcony until the 1970s, when renovations enclosed the space to expand the reading room. The L-shaped layout, strategically designed for optimal appreciation from the intersection of Vine Street and North Washington Avenue, encompasses two stories along Vine Street and three floors of stacks along Washington Avenue. Subsequent to a 1970s remodel, the basement assumed the role of staff offices. In pursuit of enhanced accessibility, an elevator was retrofitted to the rear of the building.

Stylistically, the library embodies the French Gothic, mimicking the medieval Cluny Museum in Paris. Limestone constitutes the primary building material. Noteworthy inclusions encompass the original landscaping by Frederick Law Olmsted, revered as the Father of American Landscape Architecture, acclaimed for iconic projects like New York City’s Central Park. The architectural emulation of the Cluny Museum, Paris, is evident, embellished with distinctive owls and gargoyles.

Endorsed by its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, this library bears historical significance as a manifestation of late 19th-century architectural prowess and philanthropy. The synthesis of historical context, architectural innovation, and philanthropic intent converges to elevate the Albright Memorial Library as a distinguished cultural and civic landmark.

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