How it all began for Bayne Library

By NANCY WHYTE

Next week, the Andrew Bayne Memorial Library celebrates its 100th anniversary. The history of this local institution is fascinating and is just one of the aspects to be enjoyed when library staff, patrons, and community residents of all ages join in the May 16 and 17 celebration.

The namesake of the library, obviously, was Andrew Bayne, a member of Pennsylvania's Constitution Convention of 1837-38, and later elected Sheriff of Allegheny County. He and his wife, Mary Anne Matthews, from Butler County, raised two daughters: Amanda and Jane. The girls each received a piece of land on which to build.

Amanda married James Madison Balph, who was an architect. In 1873, he designed and built the Victorian home that is now Bellevue's library. Jane married Arthur Teece. They lived in the house that is now the Lawrence Miller Funeral Home. Neither Amanda nor Jane had any children, and both sisters became widows.

Jane passed away in 1896, leaving her property to her sister with the provision that after Amanda's death, all the land would be turned over to the borough. (Another provision was that the two streets bordering the property be renamed Bayne and Teece.) Amanda passed away in 1912, at which time Bellevue acquired the property enjoyed today as Bayne Park.

A library committee was formed, and in 1914, two rooms were opened to the public. The collection consisted mostly of books that had belonged to the sisters. Soon after, a swimming pool was built on the grounds. Later, a basketball court replaced the swimming pool, and now a skate park is located there.

In 1920, 12 elm trees were dedicated as a memorial to local men who had died while fighting in the World War. A year later, plaques containing their names were placed by each tree. Passersby can still stroll along and read the honored names. Later that same year, the life-like bronze statue of an American doughboy, created by Pittsburgh sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, was placed at the corner of Teece and Balph.

By the late 1920s, the library's collection had grown to approximately 3,000 books, and 934 Bellevue residents had been issued library cards. Other rooms of the house were being used as a community meeting place. Around this time, Bellevue borough officials entered into a contract with the trustees and promised to pay the difference between the income from the fund and the amount that is necessary to operate and maintain the library.

The Bayne sisters are not the only generous individuals who have made extremely large contributions to the library. In 1997, the library's stained glass window, best-viewed while ascending the library’s stairs to the second floor, was unveiled, a donation from the children of Mary and Harry O'Hare, in memory of their parents. The window depicts “The Lone Sentinel,” a famous elm tree that lived for nearly 400 years and was said to have been a favorite of Amanda. The 12 elm leaves around the border panels of the stained glass represent the 10 O’Hare children as well as Mary and Harry. In 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Sokol contributed $10,000 to refurbish the soldier statue.

Stories abound that Bayne Library is haunted. Many believe that Amanda's spirit still resides in her home, occasionally reminding patrons that they are "her guests." She is said to turn lights or a ceiling fan on or off, open doors or window shutters, and occasionally cause computers to function erratically. Footsteps on the upper story floors have been heard before and after library hours, and a woman wearing a bonnet, presumably Amanda, reportedly has been seen looking out of the second story window that had been Amanda's bedroom. Missing books sometimes just "appear" on previously-searched shelves. Several times around Halloween, the library has hosted a visit from Suzanne and Jean Mckenzie Vincent, the "Psychic Sisters.” During those events, an inordinate number of inexplicable "orbs" appear in photographs taken, and some individuals report feeling “cold spots” while touring the unused top floor of the library.

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