The current Greenville Branch Library, opened in 1927, sits on the southwest corner of then-called Hudson Boulevard and Stevens Avenue. The building is two stories high, with a basement and is built of stone and salmon-colored brick. The architecture is an adaptation of the Renaissance style, modified to meet modern requirements, by architect Albert S. Gottleib of New York City. The architect was associated with John A. Gurd, architect of the original Bergen and Pavonia branches. A large Children’s Room, general Reading Room, and book stacks are located on the first floor.
The second floor of 1841 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, composed of two large rooms that were used for exhibition and other purposes, remains in that manner. The Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society Museum, the only museum of its type in the state of New Jersey, has had its collection there since the early 1980s.
The Greenville Branch originally opened in February 1917 in rented rooms at 169-171 Danforth Avenue. Its success was immediate, and its use increased rapidly. The Library Trustees researched a suitable location, and in 1924, acquired the property of the current site. Plans for construction started immediately thereafter. The cornerstone was laid in July 1925, with building completion in October 1926.
The formal dedication ceremony of the newly built Greenville Branch Library occurred on January 13, 1927 amidst the flourish and fanfare befitting the era of The Roaring 20s. A commemorative booklet, complete with photographs and an Art Deco cover design, described the attributes of the new Greenville Branch in vivid detail. “The number of books circulated for home us last year was 164,991 and in addition 17,830 volumes were used in the building. The number of persons using the reading and reference rooms in 1926 was 64,869.”
According to an article in the January 13, 1927 issue of The Jersey Journal, New Jersey Governor Harry A. Moore, a Jersey City native, was expected to address the audience, as well as Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague. Other dignitaries who spoke were Jersey City Superintendent of Schools Dr. James A. Nugent, “Miss” Sarah Askew of the New Jersey State Library Commission, and former Judge William H. Speer of the Board of Library Trustees.
The Dickinson High School orchestra and the junior choruses of Lincoln and Dickinson High Schools, under the direction of Professor Moritz Schwartz, performed. Library Board President Alveni Allen presided over the ceremonies.
Today, the Greenville Branch Library serves as one of six regional branch libraries within the nine-branch Jersey City library system. The branch withstood a $4.8 million renovation, and re-opened to great fanfare on Monday, January 26, 2009. The regional branch library is now fully ADA-compliant, with disabled access and routes available within the library, as well as to the Afro-American Historical Society Museum, which is located on the second floor of the building. A formerly unused area has now become a well-used space – the Barack Obama Auditorium, named for our nation’s first African-American president – which features disabled access and seating, with an auditorium capacity of 128 and four seating spaces set aside for people with disabilities, and new lighting. All new furnishings grace the First Floor, where the Children’s Room, Reading Room, and book stacks are located.