A Brief History of the Library
The Palisades Library began in 1891 when Mrs. Lydia Lawrence donated a building, 663 books, and funds for a caretaker. The Reverend Paul Martin of the Methodist Church recalled, “My earliest recollections of the library is of my astonishment at the faith of Mrs. Lawrence, on my first learning that she proposed establishing a library in so small a community.”
The library was housed in different buildings over the years. The first attempt to start a Palisades library was a failed endeavor located in the Steepleless Church where the post office now stands. It was so severely vandalized that the project was abandoned. The next library, started by Mrs. Lawrence, was located in the old Watson House or “Ding Dong” house. It was soon moved to The Big House. The house and library duties passed through the Lawrence family women until it moved in 1943 to the Old School, what is now the Palisades Community Center.
The move to the Palisades School House required the abolishment of the private lending library and the establishment of a “free” public library. In 1944 the Palisades Library Association was dissolved and all of its contents and funds were transferred to a new public library. In 1947, the Palisades Free Library received its temporary charter from the New York State Board of Education and its absolute charter in 1949. While the library was now open to all, it still depended on the services of volunteers and donations of members. It was not until 1962 with the creation of the Orangetown Library District that the Palisades Free Library received tax dollars.
There was one more move in the future of the library. The growth of the school age population and the popularity of the newly chartered library required new headquarters. Funds were raised to purchase and refurbish its current building on Closter Road. The library thrived in its new space and in 1964 the first expansion of the building was complete. The Miss Florence Babcock wing created a workspace for staff and volunteers and a research and reading room for patrons. By the 1990’s it became clear that the success of the library demanded even more room. Once again volunteers shifted into high gear and raised a half-million dollars for an addition. The 1996 addition increased the library space to 3,767 square feet. Today it is the smallest library in Rockland County.
There are many important people in the history of the Palisades library. Mrs. Lawrence, her daughter Margaret Lawrence and Miss Margaret’s niece, Lydia Lawrence Tonetti Hyde were essential to the founding and maintenance in the early years. From 1891 through the twenty-first century, three women will be closely associated with the library for their decades of service; Emma Quidor (1891-1941), Mildred Rippey (1948-1983) and Beatrice Agnew (1968-2007). There are many others whose care and dedication has made the library the cornerstone of the community. To read about these people and the library, check out or purchase, A History of the Palisades Free Library, 1891-2008 edited and compiled by Alice Gerard.