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History of Wood-Ridge Memorial Library
On January 23, 1930, at a meeting of the Wood-Ridge Manor Community Club, Mrs. Arthur R. Hotz, one of the members, suggested that a library was needed in the borough. Mrs. Hotz and Mrs. Harry Rossler were appointed to proceed with the project. They sent a letter to all the organizations of the borough inviting them to send representatives to a meeting at the home or Mrs. Hotz on Windsor Rd. From that important evening in 1930 during the remote days of the depression until the present day, the growth of the library has been fostered by many willing minds and hands.
Mrs. Hotz was a dynamic and energetic worker, and after the Library Association had been formed, she organized a successful campaign for donations of books and money, making it possible to apply for a charter and open the doors of the first library in the same year.
The Board of Education generously permitted the association to use a large room in School No. 2, where the library started with about 2,000 books. The first Board of Trustees was comprised of Robert I. Stoesser, President; Mrs. Hattie I. Grimshaw, Vice President; Mrs. Arthur Hotz, Secretary; Mrs. Hazel Rossler, Treasurer; Mrs. Florence Hughes, Mrs. William Wesp, and William Simpson.
At first the library was open for only a few hours at a time and staffed by many volunteer workers, among them Mrs. Eleanor Noble. When money was available for a salaried librarian, Mrs. Noble was hired and continued to serve through the years until her death in 1956. Her gracious personality did much to make the library a popular local institution.
When, in 1934, the school authorities decided to expand the system, the library could no longer be housed in the school. The Mayor and Council generously consented to pay rent for library quarters in a store on Valley Boulevard, where it remained until it moved into the present Memorial Library building in 1954.
In 1944, the electorate of the borough, by an overwhelming majority voted to take over the library as a public responsibility. Mayor Staubach and the members of his Council gave enthusiastic support to the project on referendum.
In the following years of comparative plenty the library grew rapidly and expanded its services to an extent that made the rooms on Valley Boulevard totally inadequate. Then, by a rare combination of circumstances, the War Memorial Committee was considering various suggestions for the commemoration of those Wood-Ridge servicemen who had died for their country, at the same time library trustees were looking for larger quarters, and a group of citizens was trying to preserve the historic Brinkerhoff house. The proposal was soon made to the governing body to consider the restoration of the old building, its conversion into a library, and its dedication as a War Memorial.
At first the Mayor and Council were opposed to the suggestion, believing it to be impractical to make an efficient library of the old house which had fallen into serious disrepair.
A handful of persevering citizens believed strongly that this oldest landmark in Wood-Ridge should be preserved, and worked indefatigably under the leadership of Arthur Wakeling, a member of the Library Board of Trustees, to interest the people of Wood-Ridge in the proposal.
The house, the only one of native handcut sandstone that has survived in Wood-Ridge, belonged to the Brinkerhoffs who originally settled in Wood-Ridge. The time of the building of the old stone section is not recorded, but a date stone in the cellar of the newer wooden wing is marked “1792”.
The Bergen County Historical Society examined the building and stated its belief that the stone section of the library was probably built before 1700, as evidenced by details of construction. Some of these were handhewn oak timbers 8 by 10 with mortise- and-tenon joints secured with wooden pins; arched chimney and fireplace foundations of Dutch Colonial style so thick it was possible to build large cupboards in the arched recesses; partitions covered with hand-split cedar lath, probably from the Berry’s Creek region; a primitive type of plaster bonded with the hair of farm animals; and some very early doors and door frames. It is supposed that the original gambrel roof was replaced with the mansard roof about 75 years ago, at which time a broad porch (since removed) was built across the front and south side.
The building remained in the hands of the Brinkerhoff family until the early 1900s when it pass from the estate of Henry E. Brinkerhoff to Leopold Brandenburg, who later became mayor of Wood-Ridge. The Brandenburgs farmed the land, and gradually sold off parcels of it. In time the old building became extremely dilapidated, and the Borough of Wood-Ridge acquired it in 1941 for unpaid taxes and a nominal payment to some Brinkerhoff heirs who still maintained an interest in it. Considered useless and an eyesore, it had been planned to raze it, when the campaign to save it for a Memorial Library was begun.
Mayor Guy Calissi and his Council were persuaded to put the decision to the citizens of the town as a referendum question in November 1952. The project was approved, and the building was restored and dedicated as the Wood-Ridge Memorial Library on September 19, 1954.
In 1980 and 1984, respectively, the Brinkerhoff House was listed on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places as part of the “Thematic Nomination of Early Stone Houses” in Bergen County. Noted were its architectural significance, remaining historic fabric, and association with the exploration and settlement of Bergen County.
With the help of partial funding through a Bergen County Historic Preservation Trust Fund grant, a restoration project of the exterior of the Brinkerhoff House was completed in 2016, under the direction of Connolly & Hickey Historical Architects. The work included roofing, drainage, siding and trim repair, masonry re-pointing, and upgrading of the exterior lighting. On May 4, 2017, the Library was presented with a 2017 Bergen County Historic Preservation Award for exemplary contribution to historic preservation in Bergen County in the category: Preservation or Restoration of a Structure or Historic Site.