The Freeport Memorial Library was established in 1884 by Professor Loren M. Burdick, principal of the Freeport Schools, with funds raised by amateur entertainments. For a while, the books were kept in the clothes closet of the principal’s office in the Grove Street School. In 1895, the Board of Regents of New York State granted a provisional charter. The following year 759 volumes constituted the Library’s book collection and circulation reached 1,174. A permanent charter, signed by Melvil Dewey, was granted on December 21, 1899.
The Library was housed in the school until 1911 when it was moved to a rented room in the Miller Building on South Grove Street . Members paid ten cents for a card and were permitted to borrow two books, one fiction and one nonfiction. In 1920, the first public drive for funds for a new building was started. Elizabeth Pirodsky, a sixth grade student at the Seaman Avenue School, was the first donor. In August 1920, Theodore Roosevelt Jr., assemblyman for the Second District and the late President’s son, sent the Freeport Memorial Library Association a $20 donation. Assemblyman Roosevelt also issued a statement commending the choice made for a memorial and encouraged gifts from the American Legion members. One thousand citizens of the Village of Freeport voluntarily contributed $36,500 to the fund drive. John Anderson, owner of the site of the new building at the corner of Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue, was paid $14,775 for the land. Ground was broken for the Library on the northwest corner of Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue on April 30, 1921. The cornerstone was laid on June 25, 1922. On Memorial Day in 1924, the Beaux Arts building, designed by architect Charles M. Hart was dedicated as the first war memorial library in New York State. In 1925, the Freeport Library officially changed its name to the Freeport Memorial Library. Three years later, a memorial tablet with the names of Freeporters who died while serving in the military during the Civil War, Spanish American War, and World War I was dedicated. This table included the inscription: “In this Memorial / As in the hearts of the people of Freeport / The Memorial of the Men and Women who served in the / Wars of our Country will be enshrined forever.”
The completion of the Freeport Memorial Library building was an appropriate climax to the efforts of the citizens of the village to find a suitable and lasting memorial to the sacrifices made by those who died in the service of their country. A close look at the engravings on the original building reveals the names of the historic battles of World War I, the Spanish American War, and Civil War.
Population growth, the increased use of the Library, and a necessarily expanding book collection, soon made the original Library building inadequate. Work towards a new addition was begun to meet these needs. On Sunday afternoon, April 19, 1959, a new wing was dedicated.
In 1982, on the 90th anniversary of the Village of Freeport the residents elected to expand their Library once again. By purchasing the building adjacent to it, the Library was expanded to twice its size (48,359 square feet). The new addition was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1985. This expansion allowed the original reading room to be restored and plaques honoring Freeporters who died in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, were added. Today the Freeport Memorial Library is one of the largest public library facilities in Nassau County.
Researched and written by Regina G. Feeney