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Tenley-Friendship Library Washington, D. C.

The following is an excerpt from the DC Public Library’s history of the Tenley-Friendship branch.

The first public library branch located in the Tenleytown area occupied a single room of the newly opened Bernard T. Janney School, which was built at Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street N.W., in 1925. 

The community library soon outgrew its space at the Janney School. When the police department vacated its Sub-T building at 4539 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., in October 1927, the building was rehabilitated to accommodate the Tenley-Friendship branch of the public library.

Two rooms on the left side of the building housed a collection of children’s books, while on the right stood the librarian’s desk and counter. The general library occupied the larger of the two rooms, which was furnished in 1930 with chairs, a settee and a lamp.

The library’s caretakers for nearly 20 years, David Carroll and his wife, occupied a second floor apartment over the library.

The Tenley Library remained in the reused police station for 32 years and underwent several renovations over the years, including the addition of green striped awnings, a new workroom and a flower garden in 1928-29.

In 1955, the Board of Education voted to transfer a small portion of the Janney School grounds, allotted in 1935 for use by the proposed public library, to the D.C. Commissioners.

The site on the southwest corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street was deemed desirable by the D.C. Public Library because of its proximity to public transportation, its location within a short distance of several public schools and the fact that it occupied the heart of Tenleytown’s commercial area.

Construction of the library did not begin, however, until July 1959 because of a heated debate over the use of the site.

Area residents protested the location of the library because it occupied a corner of the Janney Elementary School playground, which the citizens, including the Janney School Parent-Teachers Association, felt should be reserved for recreational facilities.

The city, however, insisted that the new library be located near public transportation and in a central location, and therefore denied the community’s request to relocate the branch.

The old police station that once served as the home of the Tenley Library was eventually demolished, and a restaurant now occupies the site.

The design for the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library was prepared by architect Clark T. Harmon. Ground was broken for the new library building on July 10, 1959 and it opened in 1960.

The 1960 building was replaced by a new library building that opened in 2011.  It was designed by The Freelon Group, and its design is intended to evoke an open book. The building features a vegetative green roof, one of the many green elements of the building.

The library is supported by the Friends of the Tenley-Friendship Library, the first “Friends” group established in the D.C. Public Library system in 1972. The group originally formed to advocate the continuation of the second floor children’s room.

Today the Friends host author talks and continue their support of Tenley-Friendship Library through donations and book sales.

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