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B.F. Jones Memorial Library

Ohio-Beaver

B.F. Jones Memorial Library

B.F. Jones Memorial Library

Location Details

PHONE: 724-375-2900
ADDRESS: 663 Franklin Ave
Aliquippa, PA 15001
HOURS: Monday through Thursday 9:00am-8:00pm; Friday & Saturday 9:00am - 5:00pm Closed Sundays & Holidays

Description

Benjamin Franklin Jones, Sr., would probably be surprised at how things turned out. After all, the one building left standing that still bears his name is not the steel mill he helped to found, but rather the Aliquippa library.

During its heyday — the 1930s and 1940s — Aliquippa was a thriving community, thanks almost entirely to the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company. As the longest plant in the world, J&L stretched some seven miles down the Ohio River. It produced 3 million tons of raw steel per year and employed 15,000 people

But by the mid-1980s, the once-mighty mill was forced to shut down its last blast furnace. For local residents, this marked the first time in nearly 80 years that it wasn’t raining soot. Nowadays, this small river town is struggling simply to stay afloat. And nowhere is that more evident than in the central business district. But the B. F. Jones Memorial Library remains an oasis on Franklin Avenue.

When the idea of building a library in honor of her father was presented to Elisabeth Horne in 1926 — more than a decade after the steel industrialist’s death — she saw it as an opportunity to serve the educational and cultural needs of the white-collar managers and immigrant laborers who settled in Aliquippa. So Horne offered to pay for the library’s construction and initial furnishings and procured a promise from the borough to continue funding and operating it.

For three years, Horne worked with the Pittsburgh-based architectural firm of Bartholomew & Smith to create a one-story, 15,000-square-foot facility. Designed in a restrained Italian-Renaissance style, the library’s exterior is made of gray Indiana limestone.

Stepping inside, visitors are greeted by a larger-than-life bronze statue of the building’s namesake. The interior features solid mahogany and brass doors, decorative wrought-iron screens by Oscar Bach, and marble wall medallions. Today, the library is listed on both the Pennsylvania and National Registers of Historic Places.

The library’s shelves are stocked with historic photographs of Aliquippa, the J&L mill, and the residential “plans” built by the company to accommodate segregated ethnic groups, as well as 80,000-plus books, books-on-tape, CDs, videos, and DVDs. Still striving to serve the needs of the community, the library also offers computer classes and children’s activities.

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