RUNDEL MEMORIAL BUILDING ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARY
William G. Kaelber
The Rundel Memorial Building, erected on the west side of South Avenue between Court and Broad Streets, and over the subway and the Johnson & Seymour Race, was started in 1934, Rochester's Centennial year, is 213 feet long, 128 feet deep and occupies three floors, a basement and partial sub-basement.
It was designed by and built under the direction of William G. Kaelber, surviving partner of Gordon & Kaelber, and his associate, Leonard A. Waasdorp.
The building is constructed with a base of Mt. Airy (North Carolina) Granite and above that is faced throughout with variegated Indiana Limestone. The exterior is a very simple contemporary interpretation of the Renaissance tradition and is featured on the South Avenue front by an engaged colonnade between two pylons, the tops of which have been carved with groups of figures which symbolize the inscriptions on the exterior of the building. The group on the South Pylon combines the inscriptions on the South (Court Street) wall of the building and supplements the Inscription on this pylon. In the group, three figures symbolize life, its beginning and continuity. Between the male and female figures stands that of a young child. The hands of the larger figures, outstretched toward each other, turned up and open, touching the child, complete a circle of never ending life. The male figure symbolizes Philosophy and Biography, indicated by the scroll and book, and the female figure represents History and Religion, as she carries a sword and the two tablets of the law. The Sun's rays express Light and the laurel festoons signify Glory.
The group on the North Pylon is also composed of two large figures and a smaller one. One of the larger figures symbolizes Art and Social Science, indicated by a statue, palette and a pair of scales. The other symbolizes Science and Literature, suggested by bolts of lightning and a book. The third figure is that of a little child with a Lamp of Knowledge in his hand walking forward in the light away from Night and Darkness represented behind him by an Arc of Stars.
This style of sculpture is modern in expression. It is somewhat similar to that used on the Los Angeles Public Library, the Nebraska State Capitol and elsewhere. Competent opinion has been expressed that in these groups of sculpture Rochester possesses a master's work of outstanding excellence.
The sculptor for these figures was Ulysses Ricci of New York City who also did the pediment of the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester and some of the figures in the Eastman Theater. Over the colonnade is a great panel which is engraved with an inscription reading:
Rundel Memorial Building
Erected Anno Domini MCMXXXIV For The Use And Enjoyment Of All The People
Morton W. Rundel So Cherished The Fine Things Of Life That He Was Inspired To Share Them
By His Gracious Bequest To The City Of Rochester Where He Long Made His Home.
Knowledge And Beauty Illumine The World
As one faces the building the pylon to the south has an inscription which reads
Education Is More Than
Preparation For Life.
It Is Life Itself
while the one to the north reads
The Shadows Will Be
Behind You If You
Walk Into The Light
Minister To Man
In His Search For
The Enlightenment That
Reveals The Meaning Of Life
and a bronze decoration which is composed of three discs with figures representing industry, art, and science and an interlaced pattern of asters, the official flower of Rochester. The inscriptions on the north wall read as follows:
The Master Of Light And Energy
Of Time Space And Sound
Foe Of The Forces That Assail Life
The Store House Of Knowledge
The Record Of Civilization The Fulcrum For The Lever Of Progress
Over the main entrance there is an inscription which reads
Interpreter Of Nature
Source Of Exaltation
From Which Imagination Draws Its Life
Tools Forged In Altruism
To Achieve Human Betterment
Embodiment Of Man's Vision
Of Social Justice
While those on the south wall read
The Story Of The Human Race
In Conflict With Nature
And With Its Own Elemental Passions
But Ever Aspiring
What Doth The Lord Require Of
Thee But To Do Justly And To
Love Mercy And To Walk Humbly
With Thy God
The Stories Of Lives That Counted
In Their Times For Love Or Hate For
Mercy And Woe Or Well-Being And Joy
The Thoughts Of Men About Human
Thinking Reasoning And Imaging
And The Real Values In Human
The building is approached from South Avenue across a wide brick and stone paved terrace from which five steps carry one to the main entrance level. The vestibule is very simply finished in marble, the floor being of Roman travertine, the base of York Fossil Marble obtained from Vermont; the walls are a combination of Premier French Grand Antique, Bresche Sanguine, an African marble, and Gravina, an Alaskan marble. Three doors lead from the vestibule to the main lobby, from which a stairs and elevator on the left lead to the upper floors, and opening from which there is a check room for clothing and parcels. The lobby has a floor of varicolored terrazzo, with a large circle in the center which is decorated with the signs of the zodiac in bronze. The base in this room is again of York Fossil marble, the dado Is of Notre Dame marble, which is obtained from France, and the walls are finished to the cornice in Botticino marble, which is from Italy. Around the entrance doors and the doors leading to the central hall are used Fomosa, a German marble, and Bols Jourdan, a French marble.
On the west wall of the Lobby there are two inscriptions carved in the marble, which read
Rochester Public Library Organized 1911
Fostered By Hiram H. Edgerton, Mayor
William F. Yust, Librarian 1912 - 1931
A Free Institution For Self-Education
Morton W Rundel
High Minded Gentle
Sensitive To Things
Of The Spirit
Responsive To Beauty
1838 - 1911
He Had Faith In
Rochester And Its People
while those on the east wall read
This Building Is An Enduring Monument
To Its Architects Edwin S. Gordon
William G. Kaelber
And Their Associate
Leonard A. Waasdorp
It Records The Dream Of Its Designers
The Skill Of Its Builders
And The Toil Of Many Men
Board Of Trustees
Charles Hastings Wiltsie
Albert William Beaven
Harvey Jacob Burkhart
Lilian Barnes Ford
Harvey Foote Remington
Charles Stanton, Mayor
James Dumars Mcgill, President Board Of Education
John Adams Lowe. Director
Over the lobby doors to the central hall, carved in the wood transom panel are the words:
The Library Gathers Learning For Learnings’ Increase Sets Opinion Free, That Truth. May Prevail And Asks All Men To Seek For Wisdom
while over the entrance doors from the street is the inscription
Depart To Serve Better Thy Country And Thy Kind
After crossing the entrance lobby, one enters the great central hall which has the return desk at the right and the registration and loan desk at the left, so that every person who uses the building must pass the attendants at those points. The central hall is finished in American Walnut and acacia or myrtle burl, an ornamental wood from the far west, and has a base of domestic marble. The floor of the central hall is of varicolored terrazzo with a border of marble mosaic. The center panel of the ceiling is of ornamental glass lighted from a great skylight over it and the remainder of the ceiling is of acoustic tile. This hall is artificially lighted by a large central chandelier and four bronze lighting standards in the corners, and will be furnished with exhibition cases, and on the far side with the card catalogue of the library. To the left and right of the central hall are the reading rooms which are two stories in height and are sub-divided, by bookcases 7 feet 6 inches high, into eight divisions; those to the north being Fiction; Literature; Biography; History and Travel; and to the south, Science and Technology; Business and Economics; Social Science; Education, Philosophy and Religion. The reading rooms are finished to a height of 7 feet in oak and above that have walls and ceilings of acoustic plaster in a very light creamy-grey color. The north reading room has draperies at the windows and main entrance doorways of a warm golden-brown striped fabric, and the south reading room has window draperies of a cool green and sand colored fabric.
The History division has a panel over the entrance door which carries a self-explanatory inscription reading
To Cherish The Memory Of Amelia Brettelle Her Teacher Of History In The Rochester High School Kate Gleason Endowed The History Division Of The Rochester Public Library To Extend And Perpetuate The Influence Of That Teacher Who Had Been To Her An Inspiration. This Bequest Commemorates The Fineness And Receptivity Of The Pupil As Well As The Power Of The Teacher 1933
In the Social Science Division there is a bronze tablet which reads as follows:
The Edith Peck Carnahan Memorial Library Commemorates One Who For The Betterment Of Human Relationships Founded With Others The Child Study Clinic And Fostered In This City An Understanding Of Social And Mental Hygiene These Books Are Given By Her Family And Friends
Directly opposite the main entrance of the building across the central hall is the Reynolds Reference Room which has five great windows opening to a balcony on the west that hangs out over the Genesee River. This room is paneled its entire height in fine grained oak and has two panels in which are carved and gilded inscriptions which read as follows:
The Reynolds Library Founded In 1884 By Mortimer F. Reynolds Housed For Forty-One Years In The Reynolds Mansion On Spring Street Is Now The Reference Division Of The Rochester Public Library Under An Agreement Adopted In 1933 For Greater Public Service And Civic Enlightenment
To That Love Of Books And Respect For Learning Traditional In Rochester Since The Earliest Times Mortimer F. Reynolds And His Family Added A Desire That All Citizens Might Aid Their Work And Enrich Their Leisure By Good Reading. This Ideal Once Based On
Private Benefaction Has Become A Public Necessity
and two other panels which contain the portraits of the Reynolds Brothers. The window draperies in this room are of a horizontal striped variegated yellow and brown material.
A small section of the building has a mezzanine floor between the first and second floors and this is taken up by a balcony in the Reynolds Reference room, a balcony in the Science and Technology division and a young people’s room, which opens as a balcony to the Fiction division, and also a rest room for the staff.
There are in the building besides the public stairs and elevator, four stairways for the use of the staff, three book elevators and a freight elevator. The public stairs leads to a second story lobby which is very simply finished with a terrazzo floor, marble base, and trim, with walls painted a pinkish-grey color to harmonize with the marble. The second floor is arranged with the Local
History department, providing an office for the City Historian, a Local History exhibit room and a Local History Library, in the southeast corner. In the southwest corner of this floor is the Children's Room which has bookcases around all the walls to a height of about 6 feet, the walls above being painted a light greyish-blue color and the windows having draperies of a checked linen in yellow, grey, pale blue and red.
The East wall of the room has a large fireplace, modern in design, made of three shades of Tennessee marble. This room will have maple furniture of simple early American design with a few pieces upholstered in dark blue leather. Opening from the Children's Room through a swinging section of book shelving is the Story Hour Room which has a dado of brown monks cloth, on which posters and pictures may be hung, and walls of a cool light green color with a simple brick fireplace. The window has curtains of yellow, white and green homespun.
On the north side of the building and to the right of the entrance lobby is the Magazine and Periodical reading room, which has pale green walls, a rubber tile floor in a combination of red, reddish-brown and black, curtains of a horizontal striped red and brown material, and comfortable lounging chairs which are upholstered in two shades of brown leather. The entire north side of the second floor is taken up by the Fine Arts division of the Library, the Art gallery, and the Print room, and the west part of the floor has offices for department work with children and for the Extension department. On this floor are also public toilets for boys and girls and men and women.
The third floor has a small auditorium seating 250 in the southeast corner; the room being decorated with walls of a lemon yellow and draperies of peacock blue and green woolen fabric and a white acoustic tile ceiling. This room will be equipped with a Stromberg-Carlson combination radio and phonograph and has ample provision for the showing of motion pictures.
The administrative offices of the library are located at the south end of the third floor with the Trustee’s room in the southwest corner. That room is furnished in a combination of diamond pattern, plain, fine grained oak veneers with ornamental border of English stump oak veneer. In the East end of the room there is a fireplace which has a face of Pyrenees Marble with a portrait in the over mantel of Mr. Charles Hastings Wiltsie, which was painted by Maurice Comprls of Rockport, Massachusetts.
The entire North end of the third floor is taken up by the cataloging department, which is adequately lighted with north and east windows and a great north saw tooth skylight. The balance of the third floor has a staff lounge, a small dining room, printing and editing rooms, conference rooms and the staff toilet rooms, also small public toilet rooms.
Above the third floor, almost entirely concealed by the parapet wall of the building, are the pent houses in which are placed the elevator machinery and the fans and refrigeration equipment for the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning of the building.
Leading from each of the division work rooms and from the reference work room, there are small staircases to the basement level, which is only 7 feet below the first floor level, making it easily accessible to the staff, and the entire floor is filled with book stacks which will accommodate over four hundred thousand volumes. Below that level, in a sub-basement, which occupies that part of the building which is over the raceway, is a future lower book stack space in which one hundred twenty-five thousand volumes can be placed and on that level there are also located the main supply room, the mechanical equipment room, the paper baling room, the equipment for the maintenance department, the book bindery and the shipping and receiving room.
The construction of the building over a four-track subway, which makes almost a right angle turn under the library and which in addition crosses the Johnson and Seymour Raceway, presented some unusually interesting engineering problems. The building is erected entirely on stilts, which are steel columns encased in concrete extending down to solid rook and which, of necessity, had to be placed in the clearance space between the curving tracks and on the flume walls of the raceway. This meant that the columns which supported the lower levels of the building could not coincide with the columnar structure of the building itself and the building columns, consequently, had to be carried on heavy girders.
As the space under the building is entirely open and exposed to the wintry air, it was necessary to insulate, which was done by using two inches of cork, and it was also necessary to extend flues from the building across the track space and out into South Avenue so that sewer and water lines could be taken care of, and these ducts are arranged so that they can be heated in the winter weather.
The contracts which are now being carried on for the extension of pavement from Court Street and Broad Street to fill in the open space over the subway tracks are made according to plans which will permit of the future building of one story book stack extension, in the form of ornamental North and South Terraces, which will accommodate about eighty thousand additional books.
The total book capacity of the building at present is approximately eight hundred thirty thousand volumes, and with the possibility of the addition of the stacks in the future extension, the building will ultimately be able to house over nine hundred ten thousand volumes.