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History of Spring Lake Public Library
From The Historical Society of Spring Lake
 
During the summer of 1919, Mrs. Samuel (Adelaide) Heilner saw the need for a public library in Spring Lake. She placed an advertisement in the Spring Lake Gazette requesting books and donations. She asked Mrs. Joseph H. (Sara) Height, who was the first President of the Woman’s Club of Spring Lake, to help her in receiving and recording the gifts of books, and they sent flyers to all the cottages of the borough.  Hundreds of books and several checks were received for the library.
In the fall of 1919 the project was turned over to the Woman’s Club, and a Library Committee was appointed.  Members of the committee included Mrs. Heilner, Mrs. Height, Mrs. H. (Elisnor) Moore, Mrs. C.D. Nesbitt, Mrs. H. Getsinger, Mrs. F.F. Schock, Mrs. Laura Moses, Mrs. H.B. Tobin, Mrs. Robert W. Steele and Mrs. Sarah Hillaman.  
 
The first meeting of the Library Committee was held at “Seawood”, the home of Mrs. Adelaide Heilner, on September 12, 1919 to discuss a possible location for the library.  The Woman’s Club had been searching for a meeting place for themselves as well, so both problems were happily resolved just a few days later during a Welcome Home Day celebration.  Welcome Home Day was held in honor of the 58 soldiers and sailors from Spring Lake who served in World War I.   After a parade one of the speakers, Rev. B.C. Lippincott of St. Andrew’s Church, announced that Mayor O. H. Brown*, would donate a triangular plot of ground bounded by Brighton, Third and Madison Avenues, and he would provide $100,000 towards the construction of a Soldiers and Sailors Memorial on that site.  This Memorial would be in the form of a Community House for the use of the townspeople.  The Langhorne Cottage, which existed on this site, was placed at the disposal of the Woman’s Club for use as its headquarters and also to be used as a Library and a Reading Room.
 
A second meeting of the Library Committee was held on September 29, 1919 and a third meeting was held on October 4.   At the October meeting, the committee was enlarged to include men; Mayor O.H. Brown, Mr. Samuel Heilner, Professor H.W. Mountz, Dr. D.H. Hills, Mr. T.H. Bennett, Mr. W. McKeever and Dr. M.F. Kirkbride came on board.
 
The Woman’s Club continued their book collections, and by November 3rd they had collected more than 2,000 books.   They hired a librarian, Miss Florence Miller, and a janitor, Andrew Gazda.  Although without formal librarian training, Miss Miller had been recommended by Mr. Mountz and was a former student of his.  Her original salary was 30 cents per hour, paid for by a friend of Mrs. Adelaide Heilner. The Woman’s Club also purchased bookshelves and tables, and the winter’s supply of coal was donated by Mr. Samuel Heilner. Spring Lake’s new library was officially open to the public on November 11, 1919 in Langhorne Cottage, and the Library Committee was officially dissolved. A seven-member Board of Trustees was appointed by Mayor O.H. Brown. By law, the Mayor and the school principal of H.W. Mountz were mandated as members. Mr. O.H. Brown served as President of the Board, and Mr. Mountz was the Secretary-Treasurer.  A formal presentation of the new Spring Lake Library took place at Langhorne Cottage on November 14, 1919 which also happened to be the first anniversary of the Woman’s Club.
Spring Lake Library remained in Langhorne Cottage throughout the winter. The following April it was temporarily moved to the Council Room in the Old Municipal Building on Washington Avenue. Only enough books were purchased to satisfy the immediate demand of the public, as every inch of shelf was occupied and every available spot was filled with boxes of books that had been donated.  Once the Langhorne Cottage and other buildings were moved from the property, construction began.
 
As construction for the new community house neared completion and the weather became warm enough for the building to be used without the expense of heating, it was time to consider the library’s move.  The library closed and the move began on June 7, 1923.  The distance between the two buildings was so short it was remarked by one of the committee members that they should borrow a small express wagon and take a load of books with them each time they passed the new library. This suggested a plan, and the services of a capable gentleman, James Saulter, were secured at a cost of 50 cents an hour. A push-cart was borrowed from the janitor, Andrew Gazda, and the books were removed from one section, placed in the cart, and pushed over to the new room to be placed in their respective sections. The library had simply rolled from one building to the other.

On June 11, 1923 the Spring Lake Public Library opened to the public in its new and final location ~ The Spring Lake Memorial Community House.
 
* Mr. O.H. Brown was a successful shore area businessman with interests in furniture stores, hotels and real estate. He served in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate, and he was the Mayor of Spring Lake for 32 years.
 
 
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The Community House

"I delight to think that in years to come, perhaps 100 years or more from now, when this building is covered with ivy and surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers and shrubs, all within the sound of the old ocean's roar, great towns will exist. For in my opinion, this whole Jersey coast will be one vast city population in winter as well as in summer with Spring Lake, perhaps, as the garden spot of it all."

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These prophetic words spoken in 1923 by Spring Lake mayor and generous benefactor, Oliver Huff Brown, better known as O.H,. came true in less than a hundred years. O.H. was referring to the Spring Lake Memorial Community House, a combination theater, library and community center. Dedicated to the 58 World War I veterans from Spring Lake, the Community House was always intended to be a living memorial.

   

        Oliver H. Brown, born in Farmingdale, Monmouth County in 1852, led a life of devoted service to Spring Lake – and New Jersey – throughout his life. Elected in 1896 as a member of the New Jersey State House of Assembly, he was selected to be one of only 20 delegates to the 1900 Republican National Convention that nominated William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt for the Republican presidential ticket. His dedication to Spring Lake is best demonstrated by his simultaneous holding of the offices of Mayor of Spring Lake, and a member of the New Jersey State Senate.

   Oliver Brown's service to Spring Lake was not limited to his political career. His early career began in the retail industry. After a trip to Europe, he returned to New Jersey to begin his own retail establishment in 1882. He "wanted to cater to people of refinement and culture" (Spring Lake Gazette, July 6, 1923) and purchased three lots on Third Avenue for his own store, O.H. Brown's Furniture. He also owned several houses in town. In 1919, he surprised parade goers by announcing his plans to donate the triangular piece of land on Third Avenue between Brighton and Madison Avenues and an additional $100,000 for a building, but only if the town would raise matching funds. Led by the Women's Club, which needed a permanent meeting place, residents raised another $100,000 to help ensure the institution would be self- sustaining.

      After relocating two houses on the property to another part of town, a cornerstone was laid on March 18, 1922. With Spring Lake builder, H. Horace Moore, and New York City architect, Frank Eaton Newman, the Community House was designed and completed by the Fourth of July the following year. Brown added to his gift by donating theater seats and other furnishings.

GroundBreaking

    Ground-Breaking Ceremony for the Spring Lake Memorial Community House

    Local papers reported the next day that Brown spoke of the " deep satisfaction" the day brought him, of the "desire and dream of his life" that had come true while he could yet witness it, and his hope that its fullest benefits could be realized. Although he died in 1924, the Community House fulfilled his wish, attracting local people as well as visitors from northern New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. The Community House offered regular group meetings, weddings, dances, movies, plays, annual flower shows and story hours for children in its building. The first librarian- her name recorded in history as simply Miss Miller- was paid 50 cents an hour through a $100 donation from a friend of the Women's Club.

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During Construction of Building

  When the Depression nearly wiped out the trust fund, a small number of people working through the Women's Club made sure the building was heated and open, although activities were suspended. It began to recover financially only after World War II.

 

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 Today the Spring Lake Memorial Community House is swarming with activities for everyone. The Tudor style design  celebrates its heritage and provides the charm of an old English manor house. The library features a working fireplace flanked by wingback chairs that remind visitors of a time long gone while less than three feet away, nestled among the old wooden bookshelves, are two computers with internet access and wi-fi signal.

 

 The Spring Lake Memorial Community House thrives as a living memorial, blending old with new, preserving history with a nod to the future.

 

The Spring Lake Memorial Community House Today