The cornerstone for the structure that is currently The Bryant Library was laid one hundred years ago, on October 24, 1920.
The building had its start as a Victory Hall dedicated to the men from Roslyn who served in World War One, many giving their lives. Like towns and cities across the United States, Roslyn sought a tangible way to commemorate “their boys.”
In early 1919, members of the Roslyn Neighborhood Association began to make plans for a community memorial. Rather than a monument, they envisioned a building that would be “a feature in the daily life of the people of Roslyn and vicinity and a living evidence of their appreciation of what has been secured to them by America’s part in the late war.” (source: Resume - War Memorial Building Campaign, 1920)
A Memorial Building Committee was formed and plans made for a Building Campaign. A fund drive was held June 22-28, 1919, with a goal to raise $100,000 through pledges to be paid over five years.
Clarence H. Mackay, owner of the Harbor Hill estate, was designated Chairman of the General Committee of the War Memorial Building Campaign. While his $10,000 pledge was the largest received, other affluent North Shore residents also pledged significant sums. Although not everyone saw the need for a new community center, the campaign was well received and residents and business owners throughout greater Roslyn pledged or donated smaller amounts to the building fund.
A design competition was held in late 1919. Six prominent New York architectural firms submitted plans. After several rounds of review and voting by Committee members, the plan of Hoppin & Koen of NYC was accepted. Frederick Marquand Godwin, a great grandson of William Cullen Bryant, was one of the firm’s architects.
Based on proposed costs, the Committee found it necessary to meet with the architects to “decide where alterations on the proposed plans can be made so as to retain the essential parts of the building and yet reduce the cost of construction.” (Minutes, July 18, 1920) The redesign resulted in the elimination of some of the proposed features. The auditorium was connected to the existing Roslyn Neighborhood House (The William Valentine House, currently The Bryant Library Annex).
After considering other names, including Victory Hall, Roslyn Memorial Building, Memorial Neighborhood House, and War Community House, “ROSLYN WAR MEMORIAL” was selected. That inscription remains on the Library’s East Broadway façade.
For more images and archival materials related to the War Memorial Building and its campaign for construction, check out our digital exhibit gallery!