The CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY- BROADWAY BRANCH or Broadway Free Carnegie Library is a designated CLEVELAND LANDMARK STRUCTURE located at 5437 Broadway Ave. or 3328 East 55th St. within the Broadway Historic District in the SLAVIC VILLAGE/BROADWAY Neighborhood. CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY Director, WILLIAM HOWARD BRETT, convinced Industrialist, Andrew Carnegie to donate $590,000 for the construction of fifteen branch libraries within the City of Cleveland. Correspondence written by Carnegie to Brent dated to 1901 outlines the city’s pledge to maintain the branch buildings. Architect, CHARLES MORRIS was chosen to design the 19,000 square foot 2-story brick French Renaissance style decagon shaped Broadway Branch. On March 15, 1903, Morris submitted architectural plans for the Broadway Branch to Brent and the library board. The project was carefully considered by the board as the estimated cost of building the branch was $30,000 and $25,000 for equipment. The PLAIN DEALER reported on August 26, 1904, Morris applied for a building permit, but construction was delayed due to injunction proceedings brought by bidders. The contractors Hunkin Brothers were chosen to build the branch in 1904. The site chosen to build the branch was a small parcel of land located on the corner of Broadway and Wilson Aves. on the former site of the Caleb Morgan Fair Ground. On June 6, 1902, the library purchased 130 feet of land from Julia L. Choate for $19,800 as the Broadway branch’s building site. On January 12, 1906, the branch was dedicated with a grand opening celebration as Cleveland’s third Carnegie library. The main façade is trimmed with brick and stone and the main façade has two entrances. The first entrance has a columned pedimented doorway facing Willson Ave. A relief over the entrance reads “erected 1904.” Two plaques commemorating the branch are installed within this entrance way. One plaque bears the inscription: “this building is the gift of Andrew Carnegie to the people of Cleveland.”  The second entrance has a smaller grade door and faces Broadway Ave. The main façade has columned Quoins executed in brick, keystones, and stone. The foundation is stone with steel and masonry wall construction. The interior features distinctive original Carnegie library designs with skylights and a domed lobby surrounded by reading rooms (reference, circulating, magazine, and children’s rooms). A theatre for library programming was in the basement. Ann G. Hubbard served as the Broadway branch’s first librarian from 1906 to 1909. Librarian, ELEANOR EDWARDS LEDBETTER succeeded Hubbard serving from 1909 to 1938. Ledbetter pioneered services to Cleveland’s surrounding IMMIGRANT communities of CZECHS and POLES. The collections centered on Bohemian and Polish literature. The Broadway Branch offered citizenship classes, educational lectures, and children’s library programming. In 1922 the Union Trust Company, Broadway-Columbia bank office building next door was enlarged and expanded to meet at the Broadway Branch children’s reading room wall. The backyard of an 1904 Tudor-Style home at 3320 East 55th Street (formerly 2216 Willson Ave.) also faces the library. The branch is a contributing property to the Broadway Avenue Historic District, which was added to the NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES in 1988. Despite public opposition the library board decided to move the Broadway Branch to 5417 Broadway Ave. formerly the HRUBY CONSERVATORY OF MUSIC in 1988. In 2021 both the Broadway and Fleet branches merged due to cost-cutting measures. In the late ‘80s the Cleveland Public Library sold the branch to the Broadway Community Development Corporation. Since 1991 the property changed owners several times according to Cuyahoga County property records. In the early 1990s owners Dennis and Georgia Althar renovated the branch into the Library Restaurant & Coffee House event center. In 2014 the 4 Ever Social Club purchased the branch and converted it into an entertainment center. The Slavic Village Oral History Project highlighted collective memories by former residents of the Broadway Free Library. Alaskan Darl Schaaff searched for a building for his planned museum in Cleveland and in October 2022 he purchased the abandoned branch. Schaaff spent the last year rehabilitating the extensive water damaged structure and replacing the badly deteriorated roof. Contractors removed over 120 cubic yards of trash and scrap from the building. He renovated the former Broadway branch to house his personal art and artifact collection to display to the public. The rotunda, theatre, and reading rooms were restored. Today the Broadway Branch was adapted into the Darl Center for the Arts which hosts local events and public tours of the collection. This impressive museum has become a draw for visitors to Slavic Village.

Angelina Bair

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Cleveland Landmark Commission. Cleveland Public Library Broadway Branch. Cleveland Landmark Commission Nomination File. (n.d.).

Cleveland Press Collection at Cleveland State University. Broadway area residents work to save E. 55th library branch. (1981).

Cleveland Public Library. Broadway Branch Archives. (1891-1990).

Cleveland Public Library JSTOR. Letters from Andrew Carnegie to William Howard Brett. (1891-1903).

Cleveland Public Library Map Department. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Cleveland, Ohio, V. 3, 1887. (1887).

Cuyahoga County Archives. 5437 Broadway Avenue Building & Street Cards. (1943 - 1953).

Cuyahoga County Property Records. 5437 Broadway Ave. (2023).

LePard, Clay. Entrepreneur converts old Andrew Carnegie library into arts center in Cleveland's Slavic Village. (2023).

Slavic Village Development. Slavic Village oral history project. (2014).



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