Lansingburgh Branch

On December 24, 1795, a group of prominent Lansingburgh residents petitioned the Regents of the State of New York for a charter, for the purpose of establishing a Seminary of Learning to be called The Lansingburgh Academy. They had erected a wooden building on the west side of the village green. This petition was signed by 27 persons. The charter was granted on February 20, 1796 and signed by John Jay. It contained the names of the first sixteen trustees.

lansingburgh branch

The trustees selected as the first principal Rev. Chauncey Lee, a noted educator and the author of The American Accomptant. He invented the dollar sign and first used it in a textbook he had published in Lansingburgh.

By 1820 it was apparent that the first building was not large enough to serve the growing student body, so a second building of brick was built on the northwest corner of what is now known as Fourth Avenue and 114th Street (then called North Street.) It remains almost unchanged in appearance today. The building was constructed on two lots transferred to the trustees of the Academy by a deed dated May 02, 1820.

In the new building with its expanded facilities, The Lansingburgh Academy flourished for the next eighty years. The Academy offered such an advanced program of study that students were able to enter college as sophomores after graduating.

Many famous people were connected to the Academy. Rev. Samuel Blatchford, an early president, was later the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was the author of a noted Greek grammar, used at the Academy and in many colleges. Ebenezer D. Maltbie was in charge of the Academy when author Herman Melville graduated with a degree in surveying and engineering. Maltbie was the author of a popular book on zoology. And Chester A. Arthur, future president of the United States, taught a course in ‘Elements of Law’ when he resided in Lansingburgh.

In 1900 the trustees of the Academy leased the building with its equipment and a fine library for a period of ten years to the Lansingburgh Free School District No. 1, to be used as a high school. During this time, a 2,500 square foot addition was built on the back of the building. On May 27, 1911 the lease expired and the trustees sold the Academy building to the Lansingburgh School District. The district used it as a high school and later as a vocational school. It was used for elementary classes until 1975.

In 1975, the Lansingburgh Citizen’s Council was given full access to the building by the school district. The Council soon put together a proposal for the rehabilitation and restoration of the old Lansingburgh Academy so it could be used as an expanded branch of the Troy Public Library, and as a neighborhood arts center. Also in 1975, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1976, the Council, under the auspices of the City of Troy, was awarded a $350,000 grant for this project. Work included a new roof, complete interior and exterior painting, new doors, a handicapped access ramp, new heating and air conditioning systems and extensive interior construction work. The project was completed in 1980 and, after a brief stay at the Methodist Church, the library reopened in its new quarters.

Establishment of the Lansingburgh Branch
The establishment of a branch library in Lansingburgh was due largely to the work of a citizens group called the Lansingburgh Library Association. The group felt the need for a library in Lansingburgh existed because of the difficulty residents had in getting to the main library downtown. As a result of the Association’s efforts, in 1938 the Board of Education voted to give use of a small room in the former Lansingburgh Academy for a branch of the Troy Public Library, and to furnish the necessary heat, light and custodial service. It was necessary to appeal to the residents of the community to give books and financial aid to the library. The Lansingburgh Library Association was active in providing annual operating funds to the branch until the Association dissolved in 1947.

The branch library opened on June 15, 1939 in a room on the second floor of the vocational school. The new branch was staffed by a professional librarian and an assistant from the main library and contained about 500 volumes. After only five months, the collection had doubled in size and the library had to expand, so it moved from the second floor of the school to the first.

In 1940, there was a separation of adult and children’s departments due to the heavy circulation. In 1952, the library was moved from the two front rooms to the rear of the building with the entrance on Fourth Avenue. In 1999, the Troy Public Library purchased the Lansingburgh Academy building from the Lansingburgh School District. In 2002, renovations were completed that nearly doubled the size of the branch. Today, the Lansingburgh Branch contains over 16,000 volumes, and continues to provide service to the citizens of Lansingburgh.