The Central Library @ Queens Library contains nearly one million volumes of materials in comprehensive subject collections, and more than 800 titles of academic and professional journals and magazines, as well as professional indices and abstracts. For more information, see:
Friends of Library - Central Library Chapter. Contact Community Library Manager at (718) 990-0700 or Office of Government and Community Affairs (GCA) at (718) 990-0817 if you are interested in joining.
Jamaica was a former town and capital of Queens County. The first European settlers were probably New Englanders from Hempstead. They were granted a patent by Peter Stuyvesant, governor of New Netherland, on March 21, 1656. The settlement was initially called Rusdorf. After the English conquest in 1664 the name was changed to Jameco, after the Indians who were the earliest inhabitants of the area. In 1680, the present name was adopted.
On May 17, 1686, New York governor Thomas Dongan issued a charter to the landowners of Jamaica. The Dongan Charter consolidated the various hamlets into the town of Jamaica and set its boundaries. (The Dongan Charter is on display in the Long Island Division of the Central Library.)
In 1702 Jamaica briefly served as the capital of the New York Colony during a Yellow Fever outbreak in Manhattan.
Important to the history of Jamaica is Prospect Cemetery. The cemetery, which is the oldest cemetery in Queens, dates back to 1668 and includes the graves of some of the earliest inhabitants of Jamaica.
Two of Jamaica’s important landmarks are King Manor and Grace Episcopal Church. King Manor is named after Rufus King, a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, one of the two first New York Senators to Congress, a diplomat, and anti-slavery advocate. Grace Church was founded in 1702 and served as the official church of the British colonial government during the Revolutionary War. Rufus King is among those buried in the Church’s graveyard.
In 1898 Queens became part of the City of New York of which Jamaica was the county seat.
Jamaica owes its strength as a major shopping area to transportation. Jamaica Avenue was once a toll road between the ferry in Brooklyn and Hempstead. The Long Island Rail Road in Jamaica developed into a major hub. King Kullen, the first self service supermarket in the U.S., opened on Jamaica Avenue in 1930. In the 1960s, interest in Jamaica as a major shopping district began to decline. However, in recent years there has been a coordinated effort, through the work of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, to revitalize Jamaica.
The first Central Library was located on Parsons Boulevard. It opened in 1930 and was expanded with WPA funds in 1941. The current building on Merrick Boulevard was dedicated on April 11, 1966. The new building was the result of the unwavering efforts of Library Director Harold Tucker. It was designed by the architects York & Sawyer, Kiff, Colean, Voss and Souder. The new Central Library was the first major branch of an urban library to place all public services on one floor. The library cost $5,700,000 and contained 195,000 square feet of floor space. The library was renovated and expanded in 1989. Additional renovation and expansion has begun and is expected to be completed in the next few years, and will include the new Children’s Library and Discovery Center.
The Queens Library’s online catalog, InfoLinQ (Information online at Queens Library) was unveiled at the Central Library in October 1993. In January 1999 the Cyber Center opened at the Central Library. The Cyber Center has 48 computers for customer use, allowing access to the Internet and word processing. The Cyber Center, along with additional computers in the library, has helped to close the gap between the technology “haves” and “have-nots.”
“Libraries” by Phyllis Dan in The Encyclopedia of New York City.
Lighting the Way: The Centennial History of the Queens Borough Public Library 1896-1996 by Jeffrey A. Kroessler.
Suggested Reading on Jamaica’s History (available at the Central Library)
“Jamaica” by Vincent Seyfried in The Encyclopedia of New York City.
The Origin and History of Grace Church, Jamaica, New York by Horatio Oliver Ladd.
Recollections of Old Jamaica: 1655-1887.
Records of the Town of Jamaica Long Island: 1656-1751 edited by Josephine C. Frost.
Queens Poet Laureate 2007 – 2010
The Queens Borough President’s Office has announced the Fourth Poet Laureate to serve from 2007 to 2010:
Queens Poet Laureate
An honorary position, the Queens Poet Laureate promotes an appreciation of poetry throughout the borough and writes poetry that is inspired by, or relate to, the borough of Queens.