History of Andrew Bayne Library
Since its inception, Andrew Bayne Memorial Library has been an anchor for the community of Bellevue. Generations of residents have spent time in house on the hill learning to read, attending meetings and events, and getting to know their neighbors and their neighborhood.
The Baynes were one of the original families living in the hilly terrain north of Pittsburgh when Bellevue was incorporated in 1867. Andrew Bayne and his wife, Mary Anne Matthews, occupied the land in the northeast section of the town. Their two daughters, Jane and Amanda, were each given a parcel of the land. The two sisters built beautiful homes with their husbands, however, neither sister had children and both were widowed young. Upon her death, Jane Bayne Teece left her property to Amanda Bayne Balph with the understanding that upon Mrs. Balph’s death all the land would be given to the borough for a library and park that would serve as a memorial to their father. After her death in August 1912, Mrs. Balph’s home and the four acres surrounding it were officially turned over to Bellevue. The streets bounding the property were renamed Teece and Balph Avenues to honor the sisters.
The Balph home was designed by Amanda’s husband, James Madison Balph, a prominent local architect. It is a classic example of Victorian domestic architecture. It features a pitched gabled roof supported by decorative carved corbels, a large asymmetrical front porch, and painted pediments over each window. Inside, marble fireplaces grace spacious light-filled rooms.
Planning for the library begin in May of 1914, when George F. P. Langfitt, A. E. Hummel, and J. B. Arthur formed a Library Committee. They oversaw the conversion of the original dual parlors into a public library. They built bookcases along the walls and solicited book donations. Mr. James Greenborough, the caretaker for the home, prepared the flower beds with donated plants and bulbs. Mr. William Faulkner planned walkways and graded the rolling park.
Andrew Bayne Memorial Library and Park were formally dedicated to the public on Memorial Day, 1927. The Library housed approximately 3,000 books, many from the personal collections of Mrs. Teece and Mrs. Balph. Upon opening, 954 residents of the town proudly possessed library cards. Mrs. W. R. Newell was the Librarian, a position she held until her death in 1948. During her tenure the Library grew to encompass three rooms on the first floor.
The second floor was converted into a community meeting area in the early 20s. The rooms were cleaned and furnished by the Bellevue Federation, an organization of local women. Later, the rooms were used to showcase the art collection of John A. Hermann, Jr., who donated his collection of painting, ivories, and decorative objects to the Borough after his death. This collection now comprises the John Hermann Museum.
Visitors access the second floor via the grand, original staircase. At the landing visitors are met with the warm glow of a stained glass window donated to the library by the O’Hare family in 1997. The window honors the memory of Bellevue residents, Mary and Harry O’Hare. It features a center medallion representing the Lone Sentinel, a huge elm that graced the park before succumbing to disease and having to be removed in 1999. The 12 leaves around the perimeter of the window signify Mary, Harry, and their 10 children.
Today, the downstairs houses the adult collection. The fiction collection, popular DVDs, and public computers occupy the original two rooms of the library. Non-fiction resides in the former dining room. Upstairs the former bedrooms comprise the children’s collection, the teen room and a conference room. The old linen closet on the second floor contains archives including issues of the local papers Suburban Life and The Citizen dating to the 1900’s and old yearbooks for the local high school. The third floor, accessible by a back stairwell, provides storage.
The Library is a beloved institution in Bellevue; over half of the town’s population possess library cards!