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In 1645, the Matinecock tribe sold 17,000 wooded acres of land to the Governor of the New Netherlands, Willem Kieft, who parceled the land out among Dutch and English settlers. A descendant of English nobility named William Lawrence received 900 acres in an area called Tew’s Neck, as it was then called. In this way, he became College Point’s first English settler. Later, a gentleman named Eliphalet Stratton acquired 320 acres of this original parcel, and Lawrence Neck became Strattonport. In 1838, the Reverend William Augustus Muhlenberg, rector of St. George Episcopal Church in Flushing, founded St. Paul’s College on the site of what is now MacNeil Park. This institution lasted less than a decade, but its name became permanently stamped on the entire community of College Point.
In the 1850’s, a German immigrant named Conrad Poppenhusen arrived in College Point and changed it forever. The process known as Vulcanization – the process of treating rubber to give it strength and durability – had recently been discovered, and Poppenhusen saw the economic potential. He was able to use hard rubber to replace whalebone (which was the standard at the time) in everything from ladies corsets to scientific equipment. Poppenhusen built a large factory in the area, employing hundreds of immigrant workers and constructed a model community with schools, water and sewage systems, a branch of the Long Island Railroad, and a cobblestone road to Flushing. The very first free Kindergarten in the United States was established by Conrad Poppenhusen at the Poppenhusen Institute, an edifice he created for the education and enlightenment of his workers. The original core collection of what would become the Library was housed within the Poppenhusen Institute.
In the year 1904, when Theodore Roosevelt was President of the United States, the Poppenhusen Branch of the Queens Borough Public Library opened its doors to an enthusiastic community. It was constructed of brick and stone in the Classical Revival style by Heins and LaFarge, and was one of the original Carnegie buildings in the Queens system. Only six of these remain in the borough. While the building itself was financed by railroad magnate Andrew Carnegie, the land was donated by the citizens of the College Point community. The core of the original collection was donated by Conrad Poppenhusen and family, comprised of the books that had originally been housed at the Poppenhusen Institute. In addition to achieving Landmark status, the branch has gone through a complete interior renovation which preserves its stately appearance while enhancing library service with modern technology. The library celebrated its official Centennial in October of 2004. The Poppenhusen branch proudly bears the name of the historic benefactor of College Point.
While College Point had become known during the latter part of the 19th Century as the hard rubber capital of the Northeast, plastics would eventually take over and replace hard rubber as a component in the manufacture of small consumer goods. The rubber company Mr. Poppenhusen had established at College Point moved to New Jersey in the 1930’s, and the last of the College Point rubber factories closed in the 1970’s. College Point is still home to a number of small businesses and factories, and its community remains vital and involved, solidified by long-time residents and merchants, and revitalized by new immigrant families. College Point, with its many changes over time, still maintains a waterside, small-town feel.
The area in which Poppenhusen is located is mostly residential. There is ample street parking within close walking distance to the library. There is also a small Municipal Parking lot directly across the street from the Poppenhusen library.