LOCAL HISTORY DEPARTMENT
- Click here to take a peek at The State Reservation at Niagara: Images and Documents - a digital collection of photographs, letters, telegrams, blueprints, maps, legal documents, and more.
Monday: 5 - 8pm
Tuesday: 2pm - 5pm
Thursday: 2pm - 5pm
About the Local History Department
The Niagara Falls Local History department is located on the third floor of the Main Library, accessible by either stairs or an elevator. Local History is a research library containing extensive collections of books, photographs, maps, newspapers, videotapes, scrapbooks, and clipping files about Niagara Falls, both city and the cataract. These materials document the history of the Niagara Falls area from before the founding of the villages of Niagara Falls (1848), Niagara City (1854), (Suspension Bridge) and the present day Niagara Falls. Some of these collections include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Early prints and original artwork
- Postcards and stereoviews
- Early travel accounts
- Niagara Gazette on microfilm from 1854- (located on Main Floor in the Reference Department
- Subject index to the Gazette, 1854 - (located in Local History Dept. on third floor)
- Love Canal - extensive scrapbook and clipping files
- Clippings and books about the Niagara "Daredevils"
- Photographs and papers documenting the development of hydro-electric power in the region
- DeVeaux School archives
- Orrin E. Dunlap collection of books, photographs and other materials relating to the growth of the city of Niagara Falls
- Herbert C. Force collection of papers and photographs from the latter half of the twentieth century
- Nathaniel Dett archives of music by and materials about Nathaniel Dett
A Brief History of the Niagara Falls Public Library
Library services in Niagara Falls began in 1814, when an association of citizens under the direction of General Parkhurst Whitney founded the "Grand Niagara Library." The fledgling library consisted of 40 books.
Through the 19th Century, services improved, and by 1852 the collection had increased to 502 volumes housed in a small room in the Third Street School. Outgrowing that room, the library was then moved to the Frontier Mart on Falls Street. From 1850 to 1898, James F. Trott, "Father of Niagara Falls Schools," served the library and applied to the New York State Education Department for a legal charter.
While awaiting the Charter, the library moved to two large rooms in the Arcade Building on Falls Street, opening its doors on February 1, 1895. Finally, on February 28, 1895, the Charter was signed by Melvil Dewey and the Niagara Falls Public Library was officially opened.
"Carnegie" Library on Main Street and Ashland Avenue
By 1898, the collection consisted of 5,000 volumes supervised by Adele Barnum, the first paid librarian. Growing pains continued and, by 1901, Niagara Falls Power Company Director William B. Rankin came to the rescue by securing a $500,000 grant for a library building from Pittsburgh Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. A site at the corner of Main Street and Ashland Avenue was chosen, and in 1904, the library moved into spacious new quarters with marble floors, brass fixtures and room for 13,134 volumes.
The Carnegie Building served the community for 70 years, through wars and changes in social values into the period of the city's greatest population growth (101,063 in 1961). When books began to overflow onto the floor, however, thoughts turned to building a larger library. The effort to manage the growth culminated on March 9, 1974, when the Earl W. Brydges building, designed by architect Paul Rudolph, officially became the home of the Niagara Falls Public Library.
By the time the library celebrated its Centennial in 1995, it contained more than 400,000 printed volumes, periodicals, audio and video tapes, and a wide variety of other publications and documents. A vibrant Local History Department, containing more the 10,000 books and thousands of pictures and other ephemera, worked to preserve the rich history of Niagara Falls. Special youth collections and services were provided in a highly functional and attractive Children's Department, and the Audio Visual Department was expanding its services to meet the high demand for video recordings and other media.
By the middle of the first decade of the twenty-first century, library users were being provided with an array of computerized resources and services. The card catalog was replaced with an online catalog. Traditional collections were dramatically expanded through the introduction on numerous full-text databases. Access to the Internet made even more information on the World Wide Web available to users at workstations in the library. The library's Web-site brought this information to users' homes. Not only was the library's role as information provider expanded, but additional services were introduced as PCs were provided to citizens for word-processing, spreadsheet and other applications. Efforts continue to ensure that the library will remain a dynamic operation and provider of essential services in the community.
LaSalle Branch Library
When the Village of LaSalle became part of the city of Niagara Falls in 1927, its library already had a home in two small rooms in the picturesque village hall on Buffalo Avenue. The building also housed a post office, police station and jail. An offshoot of the LaSalle Literary Society, the library quickly became the hub of community life under the direction of Mrs. Alfreda Walker and, later, Mrs. Fred Campbell. Youngsters turned the pages of picture books at the slant-topped oak tables in the tiny children's room. Adults congregated in the inviting main reading room with its sunny, arched windows which featured, during three seasons of the year, vibrant displays of red geraniums. During the thirty years after LaSalle became a Niagara Falls Library branch, other branch libraries were established in various neighborhoods, including locations at Niagara Street at 14th and Pine Avenue near 15th. A bookmobile traveled to numerous locations in the 1950's and 60's. Out of all of these operations, only the LaSalle Branch survived.
During the 1950's, the post office moved out, and the library took over that space, almost doubling its size. Collections grew, the staff increased in number and a library cat took up residence. By 2008, the cat was no longer in residence, but the tradition of friendliness, service, and old-fashioned charm continued in the sole branch of the Niagara Falls Library.