History of Wood-Ridge Memorial Library

Mrs. Arthur R. Hotz, a Wood-Ridge Manor Community Club member, brought up the idea of opening a library in the borough on January 23, 1930. She was one of the people who attended the meeting. Mrs. Hotz and Mrs. Harry Rossler have been responsible for the project. They addressed letters to every organization in the borough, inviting them to send representatives to a meeting that would be held at Mrs. Hotz’s house on Windsor Road. Since that fateful evening in 1930, during the early phases of the depression. Discover more here.

After the Library Association had been established, Mrs. Hotz coordinated a successful campaign for donations of books and money. This made it feasible to apply for a charter and open the doors of the first library in the same year. Mrs. Hotz was a creative and active worker.

Thanks to the kind guidance of the school administration, the library was the first to be added, which the Board of Education permitted to utilize a spacious space at School No. 2. Robert I. Stoesser served as the first President of the Board of Trustees. Vice President Hattie I. Grimshaw is Mrs. Secretary Arthur Hotz’s wife. Hazel Rossler, a Mrs., was in charge of the finances. Mr. and Mrs. William Wesp and William Simpson rounded out the board.

Initially, the library was only open for a few hours at a time, and many volunteer employees operated it. Mrs. Eleanor Noble was one of these volunteers. When the library had the means to hire a librarian, Mrs. Noble was put to work and stayed in that capacity until she died in 1956. Her warm and welcoming demeanor contributed significantly to the library’s prominence as a well-liked institution in the community.

When the authorities in charge of education decided in 1934 to extend the system, it became clear that the library could no longer be kept inside the school itself. The Mayor and Council of the city graciously agreed to pay the rent for library quarters in a business on Valley Boulevard. The library stayed there until it relocated into the current Memorial Library facility in 1954, the year it moved.

In 1944, the borough’s residents cast their votes, and an overwhelming majority decided that the library should become a public duty and be taken over by the municipality. Mayor Staubach and his council enthusiastically backed the proposal, which was submitted to a referendum.

Following a period of relative abundance, the library saw significant expansion and growth in the subsequent years, to the point that the rooms on Valley Boulevard were no longer enough to house its operations. Then, due to an unusual confluence of events, the War Memorial Committee contemplated various ideas for commemorating those Wood-Ridge servicemen. They had died for their country, while at the same time, the trustees of the library desired more space and a concerned group of locals attempting to preserve the historic Brinkerhoff house. Soon after, a suggestion was made to the governing body to think about the possibility of restoring the ancient structure, turning it into a library, and dedicating it as a war memorial.

At first, the Mayor and the Council were against the idea because they believed it would be impossible to turn the ancient mansion, which was in a state of terrible deterioration, into a functional library.

Under the direction of Arthur Wakeling, a member of the Library Board of Trustees, a small group of tenacious residents had a firm conviction that this oldest monument in Wood-Ridge had to be maintained. They worked tirelessly to pique the interest of residents of Wood-Ridge in the proposition.

The Brinkerhoff family, who were the first people to settle in the Wood-Ridge area, owned the home, the only one made of local hand-cut sandstone preserved in the area. It is unknown when the older stone component of the structure was constructed; however, the year 1792 is carved onto a date stone that can be found in the basement of the more recent wooden wing.

After an inspection of the structure, the Bergen County Historical Society concluded that the stone portion of the library was almost certainly constructed before 1700. This conclusion is based on evidence from the building’s construction. Some of this included handheld oak timbers 8 by 10 with mortise and tenon joints secured with wooden pins, arched chimneys, and fireplace foundations in the Dutch Colonial style. 

They were so thick that it was possible to build ample cupboards in the arched recesses; partitions were probably covered with hand-split cedar lath. 

They originate. Old doors and frames have been discovered in the Berry’s Creek area, and they are made of a primitive plaster bonded with the hair of farm animals.

It is believed that the original gambrel roof was replaced with the mansard roof around seventy-five years ago. At the same time, a wide porch that ran across the front and south sides of the building was constructed.

The building was passed down through the Brinkerhoff family until the early 1900s, when it was acquired by Leopold Brandenburg, who would become the Mayor of Wood-Ridge. Before that time, the building had had the Brinkerhoff family. The Brandenburg family used the property for farming before selling off sections over time. After some time, the ancient structure fell into terrible disrepair. In 1941, the Borough of Wood-Ridge purchased it for unpaid taxes and made a token sum to certain Brinkerhoff descendants who still had an interest in the property. The structure had been slated for demolition since it was considered both useless and unsightly, but a campaign to save it and use it as a memorial library was initiated.

The Council of Mayor Guy Calissi was convinced. To submit the issue to the vote of the town’s citizens in the form of a referendum in November 1952. The proposal was accepted, and on September 19, 1954, the refurbished structure was officially opened to the public as the Wood-Ridge Memorial Library.

The Brinkerhoff House was included in the “Thematic Nomination of Early Stone Houses” submitted to the Listed on the 1980 New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the 1990 National Register of Historic Places 1984. Both of these nominations took place in Bergen County. 

It was renowned for its architectural significance, the manner it had preserved its history, and the part it had played in the discovery and colonization of Bergen County.

In 2016, a restoration project of the exterior of the Brinkerhoff House was finished under the guidance of Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects. The project was made possible partly by a Bergen County Historic Preservation Trust Fund grant and received partial financing. The work included repointing the stonework, improving the external lighting, repairing the roofing, drainage, siding, and trim, and making repairs to the siding and trim.

Their Vision

Everyone in their community will be able to use the Wood-Ridge Memorial Library as a prime location for educational and exploratory opportunities.

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To get more information, check out their website or contact them at (201) 438-2455.

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