Francis A. Gregory Library History

Francis A. Gregory Library History

Francis Gregory grand opening

The new Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, designed by award-winning architecture team of Adjaye Associates and Wiencek Associates, opened on June 19, 2012 with Mayor Gray and other city officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m.

Francis Gregory LibraryThe new library features:
  • Space for 80,000 books, DVDs, CDs and other library materials
  • Children’s program room
  • Separate reading areas for adults, teens and children
  • 32 public access computers with free Wi-Fi Internet access
  • Comfortable seating for 200 customers
  • Large program room for up to 100 people
  • Two 12-person conference room
  • Four quiet study rooms
  • Vending area
  • Outdoor seating
Jair Lynch Development Partners served as the development manager for the construction project, and Hess Construction served as the mentor to Broughton Construction Company, LLC to build the new Francis Gregory Library.

From parkland to a library

Francis A. Gregory Library was built in 1961 at 3660 Alabama Ave. SE. The branch was the fifth of 11 branch libraries funded under the D.C. Public Works Program, for $457,000. It was designed by Victor W. DeMers, in cooperation with the District's Office of the Supervising Architect, and built by N.S. Stavrou of Washington, D.C. The library opened as the Fort Davis Branch in January 1961 in a two-story brick-and-concrete building on a piece of parkland transferred from the National Capital Planning Commission.

The library was renamed for Francis A. Gregory, a local public servant and neighborhood resident, in 1986.

Francis A. Gregory Regional Library is located in the Fort Davis neighborhood in far southeast. Named for the nearby Civil War fort, the neighborhood developed in the 1940s and 1950s was mainly residential. A plan to establish a branch of the D.C. Public Library in the Fort Davis area was first considered in the early 1950s. However, in 1953, the Anacostia Branch's construction took precedence, and the library in Fort Davis was put on hold.

In 1954, the Public Library's Board of Trustees began searching for an appropriate site to locate the proposed Fort Davis branch. They chose a 15,000-square-foot parcel located on the north side of Alabama Avenue that was reserved as parkland by the federal government. The Fairfax Village-Fort Davis Library Association, along with the parents of local school children, supported the acquisition of the site.

Because the land was considered federal property, National Capital Planning Commission approval was necessary for the site to be transferred to the District of Columbia Commissioners because. Negotiations between the Public Library and the Planning Commission lasted roughly 3 years until until April 5, 1957, when the Planning Commission agreed to transfer the site for library use.

Meanwhile, Congress approved funds for the preparation of plans for the new Fort Davis Branch, but eliminated the $35,000 set aside for the purchase of a site. The plans were completed by architect-engineer DeMers by summer 1958, but had to be revised due to aesthetic objections from the Commission of Fine Arts. The commission approved the plans by the end of 1959, and Congress appropriated $457,000 for construction of the branch.

'Modern, functional architecture'

Old Francis A. Gregory LibraryGround was broken for the new Fort Davis Neighborhood Library in September 1959. A steelworkers' strike delayed the building's completion, slated for summer 1960.

The dedication program for the Fort Davis Neighborhood Library in February 1961 described the building as "an example of modern, functional architecture." Its reinforced concrete construction, spare red brick-faced facade adorned only by architectural concrete trim, a large display window and two tempered glass doors reflected the contemporary aesthetics of the District's Office of the Supervising Architect. The design followed specific requirements laid out in a service plan developed by the Public Library staff.

The library building incorporated 18,000 square feet and could accommodate 50,000 books. The first floor contained a lobby, adult reference-reading room, book stacks and a sound-proof listening booth for audio material. The second floor consisted of the children's room and space for the staff. The basement held book storage, heating and a community meeting room. 

In 1977, the branch was designated one of four regional branches, meaning it maintained a larger book collection, was open longer hours, and provided administrative coordination and staff support for the local branches. The new regional system was organized in response to fiscal constraints, allowing the library to centralize administrative services and pool its collections.

In 1986, the Fort Davis Regional Library was renamed at the request of its staff and the community to honor Francis Anderson Gregory, who served for 12 years as president of the Public Library's Board of Trustees, and was the board's first black president. Gregory lived in the Fort Davis neighborhood for more than 30 years, before his death in 1977.

The Friends of the Francis A. Gregory Regional Library was formed in 1982.