Marking 80 Years, Red Bank Library Opens History Room

first_imgBy John Burton |RED BANK — Libraries are more than books. And that is especially true of Red Bank’s 80-year-old public lending library, which offers a slice of history with its books and other material.“Every library has books,” Elizabeth McDermott, the library’s director, observed last Saturday. “But we’re the only library that has a Red Bank history collection.”Red Bank Public Library assistant Claire Phelps joins in the library’s celebrating its 80th anniversary last Saturday making buttons of children’s artwork.And that collection is once again available for the public’s viewing.McDermott was joined on May 20 by numerous community residents, elected officials and library representatives in offering their support and congratulations to the library as it celebrated its eighth decade as the Eisner Memorial Public Library and the reopening of its historical collections to the public.The day was marked by celebration and activities that included “a birthday bash for kids,” with cake and the announcements of the winners of the town-wide bookmark contest for school-age children; establishing a teen time capsule, intended to be opened in 2037; and a guided tour of the borough’s historic sites. And the day’s highlight concerned the reopening of the local history room that was honored by proclamations from the Borough Council, the state Senate and Assembly and the county freeholders.The history room’s opening “allows us to show our passion for all things Red Bank,” McDermott noted.The purpose of the room, according to its mission, is to collect, maintain and preserve materials of local history for the benefit of historians, library patrons and the greater public. The emphasis is on history pertaining to Red Bank and communities in the vicinity, the county and the state and the Eisner family, whose former home now houses the library at 84 West Front St.The library was forced to close its museum area and history room in 2014 when hit with financial difficulties. Those difficulties resulted in the loss of staff and the cutback in operating hours, McDermott recalled. But the library’s Board of Trustees’ 2016 strategic plan, working with the Borough Council, was able to restore some staffing, hours and the availability of the historical resources to the public.Red Bank has had a long and storied history, said Eileen Moon, journalist, former managing editor of The Two River Times, and author of the book “Legendary Locals of Red Bank.” Beginning as a riverfront respite for the Native American nomadic tribe that traveled through the area for thousands of years, the community evolved into a commerce and distribution hub, with merchants using the Naveink River as a way to transport oysters—which were terribly profitable—and other items to New York City in the 18th century, according Moon. Moon also noted the trip back then, from what was then called Shrewsbury Dock to New York City, took 13 days by schooner.George Bowden, a former member of the Red Bank Historic Preservation Commission, joins library assistant Katey O’Connell-Strollo, for the reopening of the Red Bank Public Library’s local history room.In the late 19th century, Mayor Pasquale Menna told how Sigmund Eisner moved to the borough “with nothing” at the age of 21. “He bought a sewing machine and opened a business on Broad Street,” Menna said, from which the Eisner family established a home at 84 West Front St. and Sigmund eventually opened his uniform factory at what is now the Galleria commercial complex on Bridge Avenue. At its height, Menna said the factory employed more than 5,000 people. In 1937, the Eisners donated the family home to the borough, to be used as a library, and established a trust to care for the building, in honor of the by-then late patriarch.And now, “We’re sitting amidst history,” Menna said.“The library is here and will continue,” thanks to the Eisners’ generosity and due to the work of the library’s staff, Menna maintained. “Their legacy continues.”In 1878, a group of local women established the Mutual Library Association, through private donor funds. The association collected and lent books out of private homes. A little later the library found a home, using a building on the east side of Broad Street, later the site of Clayton and Magee’s clothing store. In 1890, the library was officially incorporated as the Red Bank Library Company.This article was first published in the May 25-June 1, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.last_img read more