Historic Bronx Landmark Starts First Restoration Project Ever

Drone footage courtesy of BronxNet

The Huntington Free Library and Reading at Westchester Square is undergoing a historic makeover, with plenty more to look forward to in the near future. Part of a 5-year capital project that also includes the library’s window restoration, ADA ramp installation, archive facility build-out, and landscape renovation, the roof assessment phase marks the very first time any portion of the city landmark has seen a restoration since its opening on October 17, 1891. Angel Hernandez, President of the library explains “After so many years of being on top of every crack and leak with the bare minimum amount resource, we are now in a position to finally start to see this magnificent structure return to its original splendor.”

The library’s roof has seen its fair share of repairs since then, however. With limited resources always an obstacle for the institution, over 30 years of modern asphalt served as the only material protecting the structure from the elements. Patches of random materials marked several spots on the roof where constant leaks threatened its infrastructure. Yet, with proceeds from a recent property sale and generous funding from New York State legislators Senator Nathalia Fernandez and Assemblymember Michael Benedetto, the library can return back to its original state. “It is an honor and a privilege to be part of the restoration of the Huntington Free Library” said Senator Fernandez, “preserving our beautiful Bronx legacy is vital to our growth and education as a borough. The library is a one-of-a-kind landmark in The Bronx and its preservation will benefit our community now and for generations to come.”

The roof restoration will include dark grey stone slate, composite to the original models. Antique copper roof finials, weathervanes, and other Victorian ornaments will replicate those original once affixed to the structure and now lost over time. Reinforcements of certain areas of the roof substrate will ensure it for many more years to come while a fresh coating of paint along the eaves and fascia boards as the icing. This first phase of the restoration project will last two months, while plans to commence the ADA ramp installation are immediately wrapping up. Special thanks to our partners at SLO Architecture and Commercial Roofing Solutions who are dedicated and attentive to the needs of the Huntington Free Library. 

The library is on one of the oldest in the borough, dating back to 1891 when the area in which it sits was still part of Westchester County. The library survived two more county changes, when in 1895 the area was annexed to New York County, then finally Bronx County in 1914. Financed to completion by railroad magnate and Throggs Neck resident Collis P. Huntington, the library has received historical visitors like Booker T. Washington, whose signature was captured on some of the pages of the institution’s first guest book. Today the library continues to serve the Bronx community as a space for community events and relief, educational programming, and research.