The history behind the Rosendale Library

The staff of the Rosendale Library (l-r): Director Wendy Alexander, Ann Sarrantonio, Sue Horowitz and Linda Tantillo. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

The staff of the Rosendale Library (l-r): Director Wendy Alexander, Ann Sarrantonio, Sue Horowitz and Linda Tantillo. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Like New Paltz, Highland and Gardiner, Rosendale initially acquired its library through the efforts of a few local women. The successful effort began with high school girls who started a service club led by the town clerk, Anna Mae Auchmoedy, and came to fruition through the efforts of the Rosendale branch of the worldwide Woman’s Club organization.

The following history of the Rosendale Library is based on information provided by its resident historian, Linda Tantillo.

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1929-1958

The first libraries on record in Rosendale were private enterprises created by several of the cement companies in Rosendale for their workers during the boom years of the 19th century. There is a “library and gymnasium” on an 1898 map of Main Street, but according to Tantillo, its actual use is unknown. The town didn’t get its first public library until 1940.

A group of high school girls formed a service organization called the Comus Club in 1929. The club initiated community service projects, among them the creation of a lending library offering 600 books on loan from the state Department of Education. Housed in Auchmoedy’s office, the library opened for public use in June 1940.

The library grew in the years that followed as additional books were donated by the community. By the time Auchmoedy retired in 1954, the lending library in her town clerk’s office had 1500 books. And that’s when the Woman’s Club of Rosendale decided it was time to make things official. They consulted representatives of the state Library Commission and prepared a plan to fund and house a library. The Rosendale Library Association was established in 1958 and a charter for the Rosendale Library was granted in October of that same year.

 

1958-1975

The next thing to do was to find a home for the new library. Tantillo’s research showed that the All Saints Episcopal Chapel, which had been abandoned after two hurricanes flooded it out in 1955, would be an ideal location. The church was for sale. Rumor had it that the chapel was going to be demolished and a gas station built in its place. The Woman’s Club couldn’t afford to buy and renovate the structure, but aid came in the form of Andrew J. Snyder, president of the Century Cement Company. The chapel had been built back in 1876 by his family in the hope it might inspire the cement workers to more wholesome activities than the local taverns provided. Snyder’s attachment to both the chapel and the community of Rosendale inspired him to step in. He bought the church, had it fixed up, and in January of 1959 deeded it to the Library Association for use as a public library.

It was dedicated on April 12, 1959. Anna Mae Auchmoedy became its first librarian. The furnishings came courtesy of the Rosendale Woman’s Club and local residents who donated everything from a bible to a doormat. The town board made donations as well, and the first fundraising library fair raised yet more support.