Bellevue Borough is richer today because of the generosity of two sisters who planned a memorial to their father.
Amanda Bayne Balph and Jane Bayne Teece bequeathed the old homestead and four acres surrounding it to the Borough to be used as a library and park. The Library was named Andrew Bayne Memorial Library in memory of their father, Andrew Bayne who also was a member of The Constitutional Convention of 1837-38 and subsequently elected Sheriff of Allegheny County in 1838. Mrs. Bayne was the former Mary Anne Matthews, of Butler County.
Andrew Bayne’s farm house actually sat on a rise of ground on the corner of Teece and Balph Avenues long before the grassy slope had been cut down to lay out streets. Jane Bayne Teece, married Arthur Teece in 1880, and widowed four years later, lived in the house now occupied by the Lawrence Miller Funeral Home. When she died in 1896 all of her property was left to her sister for life with the provision that after the sister’s death it would revert to the borough for a park and library.
The house in the park, which is now known as Andrew Bayne Memorial Library was the home of Amanda Bayne Balph. Amanda’s husband, James Madison Balph, a prominent architect of Allegheny County, designed and built the beautiful Victorian home in 1875. Inside the home, there are marble fireplaces in each room. His initials are engraved in the glass transom over the front door. Mrs. Balph, widowed in 1899, lived on in the big white house until her death in August, 1912, when it became Borough property.
One of the conditions of the settlement between the sisters and the borough was that the name of Rogers Avenue be changed to Teece Avenue in memory of the sisters. The short street now called Bayne was formally Locust Street. Before 1912 when people talked about Bayne Avenue they were referring to the present Teece Avenue.
In May of 1914 a Library Committee consisting of George F.P. Langfitt, A.E. Hummell and J.B. Arthur announced the opening of two rooms in the old home for use as a library. Contributes were being taken at this time. Walks were laid out as a general plan of grading was suggested by Mr. William Faulkner. In 1916, a swimming pool was built in the part of the park closest to Lincoln Avenue. Borough Council opened up the old borough well located near the pool and through the kindness of Councilman Harry Newell, who put the pump in operation, secured enough good water to fill the pool at no cost to the borough. Since then, the pool has been removed and a basketball court occupied the space. The courts are no longer being used but in time, something new will take their place.
In the early 1920’s a group of women calling themselves the Bellevue Federation, secured permission to use the home as a community meeting place. The upstairs rooms were cleaned and furnished. The women also had tennis courts built. It was on May 29th, 1920, when collections were taken and turned over to the Mothers of Democracy. With a large audience, in the most impressive manner, on a perfect day for the ceremonies, twelve trees were dedicated in Bayne Park as memorials to those boys whose lives were given to the cause of our always-loved freedom. First there was a parade in which ministers of the Borough, American Legion, Borough Council, Trustees of the park, Nurses from the Suburban Hospital, Boy Scouts, members of the G.A.R and Veterans of Foreign Wars marched from Borough Hall to the Park. A soldier was stationed at each tree as a guard of honor, and the service was held in the shade of the beautiful old elm, (The Lone Sentinel) under whose spreading branches the boys who were to be remembered had often played. One year later, on May 29th, 1921, tablets bearing the names of those for whom the trees were planted, were placed at each tree. On November 29th, 1921, with fitting ceremony, the monument that sits on the corner on North Balph and Teece Avenue was unveiled and dedicated to the soldiers of Bellevue. This monument symbolizes a real manly man, an artisan, a worker (not a warrior hero), but a man of heroic courage, who fought only when needed and then fought well and helped bring home a just and honorable victory. It is ten feet high and the granite pedestal is four feet high, making the monument in all fourteen feet. The life-like bronze figure is that of a young soldier with uniform, belt, kit, canteen, and helmet, characteristic of the World War soldier. Standing with left foot on an anvil, the youthful soldier appears as no regular fighting man of a military Nation, but as a youth called from whatever his occupation was. High in his right hand the soldier holds aloft the symbol of that for which he fought, a winged figure representing liberty. Inscribed on the pedestal are the words “Erected by the loyal citizens of Bellevue to their patriotic sons who served in the World War. They loved peace, but dared to fight.”
The monument is the work of Giuseppe Moretti; a Pittsburgh sculptor .The purpose of the statue is to depict the high courage and resolution that carried the American Doughboy through the war, in terms of idealism and beauty, rather than uncouth brutality.
It was on Memorial Day, 1927 that borough officials participated in the formal dedication of the park and library to the citizens. Borough officials entered into a contract with the trustees whereby they will pay the difference between the income from the fund and the amount that is necessary to operate and maintain the library. At this time, being two months old, the library contained approximately 3,000 books, some of which were original gifts from the libraries of Mrs. Teece and Mrs. Balph. Mrs. W.R. Newell, the librarian, had issued 954 cards to Bellevue residents. Two little girls were among the first to take out cards. After Mrs. Newell’s death in 1948, Mrs. Ruth Zimmer and Mrs. Robert McFeely carried on her work.
In the early 60’s the borough did extensive renovating in the three library rooms but the books had never been cataloged and by now the shelves were crowded with books no longer in demand, many in poor condition. In December 1962, Miss Helen Studer, Mrs. Thelma Seifert, Mrs. Jeanne Pennrod and Mrs. Harriet Whiting met to begin the staggering task of updating the collection. Some books were discarded, many were repaired, but best of all, the entire collection was catalogued. Mrs. Thelma Seifert and Mrs. Ann McClain were the newest librarians. John A. Hermann, Jr. was an 84-year-old artist, who lived on North Harrison Avenue. At one time the upstairs of the Balph home furnished a display of paintings, a collection of ivory and other art objects which were left to the borough by the late Mr. Hermann Jr. Today, there is a museum on Lincoln Avenue named after the late John A. Hermann Jr. that houses these works of art. In June, 1997 more than 100 family members and friends joined to witness the official unveiling of a stained glass window located in the stairwell of the library leading to the second floor. It was in honor of Mary and Harry O’Hare who died just nineteen days of each other just nine months before. Buck O’Hare along with other friends and family, former director Suzie Clark, and many contributers helped establish enough money to have the window installed. The window features a sketch of The Lone Sentinel. It was chosen because of its symbolic resemblance to the family name. A medallion surrounding the tree echoed the “O” in O’Hare; the 12 leaves dotting the panels around the border – each a little different – represented Mary, Harry and their 10 children.
On November 11, 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Sokol contributed $10,000 to refurbish the World War I memorial as part of the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony. Participating in the ceremony were Mayor Paul Cusick, VFW Post #2454 Commander Michael Benquista, the Sokols, North Boroughs American Legion Post Chaplain Norm Sloan and Commander Robert Saracco, Bellevue Council member James Scisiciani, a representative of the Knights of Columbus, State Representative Fred Trello and State Senator Jack Wagner
The building, which has been recently renovated, currently houses more than 22,000 titles, several magazine subscriptions, reference materials, Internet access (installed in 1995), and also a new teenroom . Most of the second floor is now open to the public. It includes a juvenile room and a children’s room with many exclusive picture books. The library is open six days a week to provide for the patrons. The newest technology and Internet access has developed a better place for everyone.
Often the library holds public events for the whole family. There is almost always something fun to do at Andrew Bayne Memorial Library. Whether if it is playing tennis in the past or reading best sellers now. The park outside of the library is a great place for parents to have fun with their children also. There are currently new slides and swings along with a merry-go-round and lots of other playground adventures. During the summer months the library holds a Summer Reading Program for certain age groups.
The library is a member of Access PA, the statewide library system.
Information can be found on the Lone Sentinel, the library's historical elm tree, by clicking here.
In 1998, the O'Hare family donated a stained glass window to the library which depicts the tree. More information and pictures can be found by clicking here.