I Remember This Place

When I was a girl, my mother would bring me to the Rundel Library on Saturday mornings. We’d climb the great marble staircase to the second floor and follow the hall around to the left, where the children’s room used to be. It was the most wonderful place! I would browse the shelves, make my selections, and then settle onto the bench that ran along the back wall overlooking the river. Although my purpose was to read, I would just as often daydream as I stared out the window, mesmerized by the raging water below.

Who knows how long that scene held me captive? If it was only 10 minutes it might as well have been an hour, so entirely absorbed was I. Eventually, I would be called back to my surroundings by a most welcome announcement from the librarian: story time! Joining the mass of excited kids making its way across the floor, I took my place in front of what I was sure appeared to the unknowing (adult) observer to be just an ordinary bookshelf, but what I and my savvy young peers knew to be the portal to a hidden world accessible only to us and our librarian guide. With the appropriate amount of ceremony, she would slowly pull open the section of the shelved wall that was actually a door(!) while we watched and waited with awe and anticipation. And then there it was—the Secret Room. Like so many Dorothys stepping across the threshold into Oz, we reverently entered this magical place ready to meet whatever adventures it had in store.

Fast forward thirty years to the present. Much has changed. I am grown; my mother has passed. I now work on the second floor of the Rundel Memorial Building, which is currently home to the Local History and Genealogy Division of the library. The Children’s Center has been relocated across the street; a hearth and open archways are the only vestiges of the Secret Room of my childhood. I have a much different perspective on this place than I once did, and yet it still enchants me. Stories of ghosts aside, there is something haunting in the history found both within these walls and, more literally, on these shelves. Though they are a bit less fanciful than the fare found in children’s literature, the collections held in the Local History and Genealogy Division are wondrous treasures in their own right. I can still lose myself pouring over these materials, soaking in the atmosphere, or admiring the power of the river (now the view outside of my office window!).

The charm of this place is not something I can completely explain in words; you will have to come experience it for yourself. And lest you be prone, as I sometimes am, to nostalgia for the past, you can take comfort in knowing that there is a New Secret Room in the Bausch & Lomb Public Library Building across the street. The kids tell me it is pretty awesome.

~ Michelle Finn, Deputy City Historian


Two girls sit and read books amid the George W. Cooper Doll Collection in the Secret Room of the Rundel Memorial Building, October 25, 1940. From the collection of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

Published in: on February 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful remembrance, Michelle.

  2. Quality articles or reviews is the important to invite the people to pay
    a quick visit the website, that’s what this site is providing.

  3. […] digs across the street in the Bausch & Lomb building in the late 1990s, although supposedly a new secret room is included in the new […]

  4. I am a resident of the Rochester area. I find this incredibly interesting. I was wondering if you would be willing to Discuss some of my questions about this though email?

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