JAMESTOWN – For nearly 125 years the James Prendergast Library has been an iconic structure in the city of Jamestown, a well used public library and a rugged structure.
The site is also a showcase of Medina sandstone, a building that consumes an entire city block on Cherry Street. The library, built in 1891, has rounded arches, a turret on the southeast corner and stone steps that were cut from a single stone to help the steps weather the harsh winter climate.
Orleans Hub profiled many great Medina sandstone structures last year, and we’ll feature more of these grand buildings made from the local stone.
The Jamestown Library was built in a Richardsonian Romanesque style, the same style as the famed the Richardson Olmsted Complex in Buffalo. The site was an inaugural member of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame in December. (Click here for more on the Hall of Fame.)
The Jamestown library bears the name of the city’s founder, although the library was actually built as a memorial to Prendergast’s grandson, James. His parents, Alexander and Mary Prendergast, pushed to build the library as memorial for their son, who died in 1879 at age 31.
The library was completed at a cost of $60,000 and was furnished with an art gallery at a cost of $45,000. When it opened on Dec. 1, 1891, the library contained 8,666 volumes. Two additions were completed in 1968 and 1978.
The elder James Prendergast founded Jamestown in 1811. He built a log house and then a dam and then a mill. He lived until 1836.
His son and his wife Mary honored their son by building the library. They chose to honor their daughter Catherine with a memorial by building a new Episcopal church.
The Prendergasts paid to build the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church from 1892-1894 at 410 North Main St. This church complex, which includes a sandstone chapel and office building, is one of the most impressive Medina sandstone structures I’ve seen. The church has a four-sided clock tower that looms high. The tower holds the city’s only chime bells.
The Prendergasts have put an enduring stamp on Jamestown. Their choice of Medina sandstone for a building material has given their gifts a lasting life.