About the Old Library
The historic building housing Old Library Events is one of Olean's most beautiful and treasured landmarks. It owes its existence to various public-spirited citizens who, over the decades, contributed to the construction and preservation of this handsome structure.
Mr. W.H. Mandeville, then Mayor of Olean and President of the Olean Library Association, was engaged in providing a new building for the library. He persuaded philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to donate money for the project. When Mr. Edward J. Tilton of New York, Mr. Carnegie's personal architect, unveiled plans for the grandest building Olean had ever seen, the promised donation of $25,000 was raised to $40,000. Construction began in 1909, and on May 1, 1910, the Carnegie Building officially opened as home to the Olean Public Library. The library remained here until 1974, benefiting from the generosity of various citizens who contributed money for furnishings, some of which remain in the restaurant.
In 1974, the library moved to more spacious quarters, and the Carnegie Building was occupied by the Olean Historical Society and the Department of Aging from 1974-1979. In 1982, the Olean Board of Education sold the property to Louis Marra. This saved the building from probable demolition and made possible the opening of The Old Library Restaurant.
No structural changes were made during the $1,200,000 interior renovation. When a $200,000 kitchen was added to the rear of the building, matching bricks were hand selected from the same Pennsylvania brickyard used for the original building. Though the newly wired and plumbed restaurant now has an elevator for disabled guests and a mezzanine for diners overlooking the main floor, Mr. and Mrs. Marra have carefully reserved the handsome features of the Carnegie Building's classic architecture: the rotunda, the bronze plaque of Mr. Carnegie and the marble frieze extending through the foyer. This Thorwaldsen frieze depicting Alexander's triumphal entry into Babylon is of special interest.
Many of the restaurant's furnishings were purchased by Mr. Marra at auction following the removal of the public library. All these have been restored and reconditioned. The Marras have added many antiques from local estates. The valances on the north wall of the main dining room were purchased from the John Jewel estate in Olean. The icebox in the main lobby originally stood in Dietman's Soda Fountain in nearby Allegany, circa 1903. The Brunswick dome over the icebox once hung in a Renovo, Pennsylvania home. Perhaps the most striking specimen, however, is the long bar from Chicago's famous Cattleman's Restaurant, frequented by the notorious figures of the 1920's and 30's. In keeping with the history of the building, Mr. Marra has filled many of the bookshelves with fine editions purchased from the Friends of the Library. The Old Library's building was recognized by the State Registration of Historic Places and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With Mr. Marra's passing in 1990 the tradition of superb service and cuisine is now carried on by Susan and Joe Marra.
2012 begins the next chapter of The Old Library. Susan and Joe have decided to focus on the events and Inn divisions of operations, bringing the restaurant division to it's final chapter. This will allow them the opportunity to continue to serve the community and continue to utilize the historic building in it's entirety. Welcome OLD LIBRARY EVENTS