On March 18, 1889, the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock opened in a suburb of Pittsburgh. It was the first library donated by businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in America. From 1886-1919, Carnegie donated more than $40 million to open 1,679 libraries across the country. He also built additional libraries around the world. These libraries were in communities both small and large and opened up a world of learning, entertainment, and possibilities to millions of patrons. Carnegie was a Scottish-American immigrant who made his fortune in the railroad and steel industries. Before the end of his life, he donated nearly 90% of his fortune ($350 million) to various causes.
During the second half of the 19th century, the idea of “free” libraries began to spread. Carnegie, who was born in Scotland in 1835, immigrated to America as a boy after industrialization forced his father out of the textile business. The Carnegie family settled in the suburbs of Pittsburgh where young Andrew got a job as a messenger boy. There he met Colonel James Anderson. Each Saturday, Anderson opened his personal library and allowed young workers like Carnegie to borrow books. The books opened up a new world for Andrew who vowed that if he ever became wealthy, he would provide this generosity to others.
Carnegie spent the next 50 years building his fortune, though occasionally his methods were scrutinized. He faced criticism in 1892 when workers at his Homestead Steel Mill decided to strike over low wages and better working conditions. The strike spiraled into a violent gun battle requiring a militia to restore peace. One editorial complained, “Ten thousand Carnegie public libraries would not compensate…for the evils resulting from the Homestead lockout.” Some argued that Carnegie built his fortune on the backs of poor workers. Carnegie however, believed that a library was one way that workers could improve themselves. He wanted libraries housed in beautiful buildings, with big windows and ample light. This was a change for many towns that housed makeshift libraries in churches, stables, or at the back of shops.
Carnegie devised a plan to award grants for library construction for communities in need. Grants were conditional upon three conditions. First, municipalities had to own the property where the library would be built. Second, the property had to be large enough for future expansion if demand arose, and third, grant recipients had to pay 10% of the gift for building maintenance.
Initially, when an application was approved, a community could build any type of building they wanted. Carnegie felt some of the buildings were not an efficient use of space and later insisted on approving plans before construction began. He even wrote a book, Notes on Library Building, and sent it to each community that received a grant. The standards outlined in the book meant that many Carnegie libraries looked similar. They had high ceilings and spacious interiors. The exterior was often stone or brick. The high ceilings meant that access to the library from street level usually included a flight of stairs. These stairs became a hallmark of Carnegie libraries, and some claimed they represented climbing towards wisdom or working towards knowledge. The stairs, however, proved a hindrance to older or disabled patrons.
By the time Carnegie issued the last library grant in 1919, most states had at least one Carnegie library, while other states had many (California had 142)! Some Carnegie libraries are still in use today. Others are no longer standing or have been converted into civic centers or commercial businesses. Do you have a Carnegie library in your community? To learn more about Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie libraries, search Newspapers.com™ today!
111 thoughts on “March 18, 1889: The First Carnegie Library Opens in America”
I remember a Carnegie Library in Stambaugh, Michigan when I was a boy. I never got the chance to visit it. I lived in the country and to be honest, I really had no idea what it was. We had a Worlld Book Encyclapedia set that kept my mind filled with knowledge.
Hi , we have a Carnegie Library in St Annes on Sea, Lancashire, England. It has recently been refurbished and is a really beautiful building. I can’t wait for it to reopen after lockdown.
World Book was the Google of our generation. Endless readings on almost any topic imaginable, at the time! I remember my parents angst on how they would work the cost into their budget. They knew how much we would benefit from the set
Your posts are always so fascinating, thank you!
I spent many hours over the years At Carnegie Library in the Oakland area of Pittsburgh. I loved on Saturday they held story hour. Then we my brother and I would get books down and read then we would go around the corner and visit the Museum. I still have a love of books and knowledge.
I grew up in Beaver Falls, Pa, one of the earliest Carnegie Libraries. My whole family spent time there, and I I think years ago, a school was held there. At any rate the the Building holds two museums, one for the community and one that holds memorabilia of Joe Namath, our local football player, was MVP of Super Bowl III.
I grew up in Beaver Falls also and remember spending time at the Carnegie Library. I remember the parades they would have when Joe Namath came to town.. So many wonderful memories!
I too have memories of the Carnegie Library in East Liverpool, Oh.
I love that Andrew Carnegie donated so many beautiful libraries to communities around the world BUT it does not negate the fact that he paid his workers low wages. It may have eased his conscience that he provided them all with a place of learning but that did not put food on the table for the hungry. Today it’s the Walton family making the same kind of decisions.
Brava for speaking this truth!
He paid more than simple wages when he opened the opportunity for them and millions of others to better themselves through learning.
He treated his workers worse,than slaves. They worked in horrible and extraordinarily dangerous conditions. Communities like Homestead were often compared to hell with no sewage systems or running water.
He paid Pinkertons to gun down his workers in his effort to break the unions.
But he was a smart man and understood he could fool the uneducated with public relations ploys like building libraries.
I still support Braddocks Carnegie Library even though I live in VA. The library is part of my heritage; I graduated from Braddock Hi School in the auditorium, and we used the pool for swim classes. I applaud what the caretakers are doing to improve the community and help the children.
There was a Carnegie Library on the campus of the University of Michigan. I understood that one of the stipulations for receiving the Carnegie money was that the library could never be torn down. Without going into great detail, the Ann Arbor Carnegie Library originally stood alone, then had the old Ann Arbor high school built next to it. Then the high school became University property and was expanded around the library which became part of the larger building. You could walk inside the buildings from one to the other. Steps were used where the floors didn’t match up. Then all that was torn down to build a new dorm. So nowadays, what is left of the old library is the beautiful front facade which you can see tastefully blended into the Huron St. side of the dorm. Above that doorway you see carved in stone “Public Library”. Amazing!
I can’t comment on the no-teardown stipulation, but I can attest that some have been torn down. In Hibbing, MN, there’s an open pit mine where the Carnegie library used to be. Hibbing had a nice library when I was growing up in the ’50s, but I wasn’t the Carnegie. I have visited the Carnegie in Mountain Iron. The librarians there fear that it will suffer the same fate.
My father took me to the “big” Carnegie Library in Oakland (Pittsburgh) when I was little. I was in heaven because I loved books. Since he read to me regularly as a child (Bambi, Heidi, etc.) and then took me to the actual library, the proudest moment of my life was when I got my first library card. I have been hooked on books ever since and have never been without one! Children today are too involved with their phones – (how shallow) – they should be reading.
Anyone else see the irony of this article about free libraries being posted by a site that charges for access to information?
I don’t think the two are related. Newspapers.com is run by people who have to commit all their work hours to maintaining a gigantic archive and its website interface, providing a service, handling inquiries from all over the world, and developing content. They have to get some income to pay the rent and buy food since they aren’t at a salaried job somewhere else during the day. There has to be money involved somewhere. Full government funding? Or like Wikipedia hoping for the best each year through donations which barely cover their costs? If it were still 1880, we could ask Mr. Carnegie to give newspapers.com some money.
Regardless of that, the point on irony stands. Someone has paid for and supported Carnegie’s libraries for the past 140 years and continue to do so.
If they didn’t charge, how would anyone find, digitalize, categorize and maintain the site? People don’t work for free…
I loved the Carnegie Library in Kansas City Kansas. It had a lovely rose garden. The only thing I didn’t like was that you were only allowed to check out 4 books at a time.
Sadly, it was torn down.
The Carnegie in Topeka is now the education building on the Washburn University campus. It was ripped up pretty badly in the 1966 tornado but was deemed worth saving.
There is a beautiful Carnegie Library in the small mountain town of Idaho Springs, Colorado. When we first moved to the mountains I was so wonderfully surprised to find it there! It is still a much loved working library.
Carnegie also built the International Court of Justice in the Hague (Netherlands). There is a large portrait of him in the lobby there.
My Carnegie library was in St. Louis Mo in the community called Carondelet–South St Louis. It was a block from our house, and I lugged home the maximum number of books when I visited it every 2 weeks after school. It was a large granite building with pillars and big windows. When I was in high school I worked there until I went to college. He may not have been perfect, but God bless Andrew Carnegie. He found a way to change so many lives. How can you fill dreams if you don’t know what’s possible?
Hi to our American friends. All the way to New Zealand this philanthropy spread and 18 libraries were built, with quite a few of the buildings still existing. A local for me was the Onehunga Library which is really very beautiful externally, and the interior finished to a great design and high quality. It is now a cafe, with all this grace and charm protected by a Heritage Order…
I’ve seen the building in Thames, NZ, that was a Carnegie Library. I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the USA, and was so surprised. It’s not a library anymore but it still says Carnegie Library on the building. I didn’t know there was more than one in NZ. Carnegie’s name is all over Pittsburgh. If you can get it, read Bone Wars by Tom Rea – it’s about how Carnegie financed so much of the dinosaur archaeology. We have Diplodocus Carnegii here in our Carnegie Museum.
I saw the one in Hokitika, NZ, last February. It was unstable due to earthquake damage. I wonder if it will be repaired. What a treat to see it there.
There is a Carnegie library in a town near me in Jackson, Tennessee. I went there a few times years ago and it had an octagonal small theater!! It was very unusual and has been kept in good condition through the years. Also, I traveled for years to a jazz festival in northeast Arkansas to a town called Eureka Springs. It was a beautful small town in the mountains and look like what I called “New Orleans in the mountains”. There is another Carnegie library there built right into the mountainside. It is small but very beautiful building made of stone and fieldstone. Gorgeous!!
I remember when I was about 5 walking to the Library in Marion, IN and mother talking about the fact it was a “Carnegie Library” and what that meant. I grew up in Jackson TN, which also was given a grant for a Library as well as numerous towns in TX.
There is an original Carnegie Library in Whiting, IN that I used to drive by on my way to work in a nearby mill. I remember sometime in the 70’s they expanded, and since the original building was made of brownstone, and Indiana has primarily limestone, they had it “stained” red to match. A wonderful tribute to the tradition!
On the subject of Carnegie himself, at least he gave almost all his wealth back to public causes before he died. How many of the current billionaires will follow suit?
Bill Gates and his wife Melissa formed the Gates Foundation around 15 years ago, headquartered in downtown Seattle, in order to give away a large percentage of their money to global health initiatives. They aren’t planning on leaving it all to their children.
Bill is only giving away the interest on his fotrune.
Possibly true, you might have special knowledge we don’t have, more likely to be shooting from the bung hole.
That’s how Foundations work. One of the first projects of the Gates Foundation was bringing the internet to public libraries.
I grew up in New Albany, IN. I lived with my single mother and two younger brothers in a housing project. We had no car and rode public buses everywhere. I spent every summer riding a bus to our public library, a Carnegie jewel. I would join the weekly reading club and check out as many books as allowed. It was a joy and it helped me develop a love of reading that fueled my trip to college that no other family member had achieved. Three degrees later I enjoyed corporate success and financial security in my retirement. My home is rich in books and I find peace perusing pages in my elder years as much as those Carnegie volumes enabled.
Your testimony reaffirms the importance of reading: the curiosity and imagination it creates and the indisputable gifts of learning and knowledge. It gives.
I thank God for your opportunities and a life well-lived
I always thought it strange that although it was the poorly paid labor of West Virginia coal miners that largely built Carnegie’s Empire, the Mountain State has a total of only 3 Carnegie Libraries. The District of Columbia has 4. Well, not really “strange” – Captains of Industry learned quickly that there was nothing to be gained from educating the serfs.
Where in WV are those libraries located?
Loved the Carnegie Library in Beaver Falls. Students of Latin teacher, Miss Daugherty, preferred doing their vocabulary research assignments there to the school library, so it even became a great hang-out in the tiny reference room that existed ing the 1950s. We were often shushed Then I became a “shusher “as became a library assistant for three years while I attended Geneva college. Many years later I used the the Genealogy Center on the second floor whenever I came back to town. That building MUST be preserved! I understand there are serious roof and other problems. Surely there are grants or federal funds for such a valuable historical place!
Love the Carnegie Library in Beaver Falls, PA! Students of Latin teacher, Miss Daugherty, preferred doing their vocabulary research assignments there over using the school library. Thus, it even became a great hang-out in the tiny reference room of the 1950s. We were often shushed! Then I became a “shusher“ – was employed as library assistant for three years while I attending Geneva college. Many years later, whenever I came back to town, I would use the the Genealogy Center on the second floor. That building MUST be preserved! I understand there are serious roof and other problems. Surely there are grants or federal funds for such a valuable historical place!
Oh, I owe that man so much (and also, of course, all the poor working people who made his fortune possible).
I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1940s and every Saturday my mother and I walked from Squirrel Hill to Oakland to the amazing Carnegie Library and Museum and returned carrying shopping bags full of books. My first favorite was “Madeline”. We had little money then and taking the streetcar home was a special treat. My mom didn’t go to college but got a great education there and was so well read. And I grew into an adult who values reading and books and learning above almost all else.
As I sit in front of my giant “Beat” library, it is Jack Kerouac’s birthday, March 12.
I grew up using the Carnegie Library in South Pasadena, California. It was a quiet haven for studying and focused homework after school. It opened my life to the joy of reading and discovering a far greater world than my limited experience at that time in my life.
I owe so much to that public facility!
There was a Carnegie Library on the campus of Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN when I was a student there in the 1960’s.
It was originally the college gym made into the library in the 1920’s and has been extended with additional space over the years.
The Carnegie Library at Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio had a flight of marble steps, up to the second floor reading room. These steps were so worn by students, over the years, that they became hollowed out and somewhat hazardous. I believe they were supplemented, if not replaced, in recent years, with a safer alternative.
From the ancestors of my family who worked for him, I was told of no love lost and of Andrew being a very mean man.
There is a building named Carnegie Library here in Victoria BC Canada, but it is used for business.
Oh the irony! Newspapers.com is now selling what Carnegie’s philanthropy once made available for free.
Newspapers.com. a great resource.
Actually, Carnegie’s philanthropy never paid for books and newspapers. Carnegie only gave money for the building. It was up to the community to provide funds for salaries, utilities, books, etc. It’s an issue many western Pennsylvania Carnegie libraries still struggle with.
There’s a beautiful building in Montezuma, Georgia that was a Carnegie Library. Forty years ago I was thrilled to pieces to go into that library and borrow books each week. The new public building built 20 years later wasn’t half so attractive.
I grew up in Wellington, Kansas and the Carnegie Library was a big part of my life there. The Librarian knew I had tried to forge my Dad’s name when I asked for a card at age 7, but she let me have a card anyway. The books and magazines there set my stage for education and interest in things way beyond my small town. I looked at Theater Arts magazine and read the stories behind operas and when I am back in my home town (and I’m 85 now) I still go visit it. An imposing building to one’s sight and one’s vision of what the world had to offer.
I miss it when there used to be people in charge of this website. I’ve watched the decline of this site. I suspect it’s completely bot ran much like Google.
I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana and my aunt was a librarian in the Carnegie Library there. It was a beautiful building inside and out. We went to the library every Saturday and my aunt would help us pick out books— it was fabulous! I loved the summer reading club, I loved the quiet —almost religious feeling, and I loved the books. The big open spaces, the absolute silence, and the huge windows that are a hallmark of the libraries of my childhood leave me feeling a sense of disappointment in the new modern libraries of today. Thank goodness in St Petersburg, Florida where we now live, there is a Carnegie Library downtown.
We have a Carnegie Library in our small town of Houston, MS. It is still a library today.
We have a Carnegie Library here in our town, Litchfield Minnesota. I remember that Mrs. Johnson was an expert “shusher”. It was there that I learned how to be quiet.
The building still exists but is no longer a library. I think it may have been built around 1904.
I have found conflicting information on several websites about which states in the US have Carnegie Libraries. Can someone answer this? From what I can see Delaware, where I live does not. Rhode Island is listed as having one, but no grant for it. Hawaii lists one with a $100,000.00 grant, but then other sources say Hawaii and Rhode Island don’t.
The main library building in downtown Honolulu, next to Iolani Palace is a Carnegie library.
Vancouver has a large Carnegie Library at a central downtown intersection: Main & Hastings.
The building was vacant for years, only pigeons occupying it’s beautiful domed ceiling.
Graduate architect Gary Marcuse wrote an excellent article for Maclean’s national news magazine (I assisted).
The library was refurbished and re-opened.
It is a focal point of a the community in Vancouver called: the DTES . . . The DownTownEastSide . . . The “poorest postal code in Canada.”
The Carnegie library has a kitchen to serve hungry indigents, and meeting rooms, as well as classic library shelves filled with books.
Nice to see it was repurposed for this use, that that community got a beautiful building that the area can feel proud about and that the greater Vancouver area notice and care about these local residents.
There is a Carnegie Library in Midland, Ontario, Canada. It’s a beautiful building still in excellent condition, and possesses a great selection of books. This is one of 111 in the Province of Ontario, and one of 125 located in Canada. I spent several hours looking at the building and the book collection, which is very impressive given it’s modest population (17K)
My grandparents lived near the Carnagie library in Poseyville IN, and I spent many hours there growing up. It is still used as a library today.
In today’s dollars, Andrew Carnegie’s gift to communities was in the billions of dollars. In return Carnegie did not need to see measurable verifications for the investment to build libraries. He had the confidence of intuition and insight to know that libraries as places have the power to change lives. It changed his life as a young man.
As a graduate of Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa (see picture of Iowa libraries above) I am aware that Fairfield is the only city to boast two Carnegie Libraries. The city library and the Parsons College Library were both financed by Carnegie.
Evansville, IN had three Carnegie libraries. Two are still in use, one was demolished.
From the time I was about 10 years old I would go to the Carnegie Library in Alfred, New York. Being the small town where Alfred University was located it was a real part of my life. I well remember sitting on the floor in the children’s room deciding which book I wanted to read next. My father’s office was in the basement of the library as he worked for Alfred University.
I remember it as a wonderful looking building. I remember seeing John Dewey, when he ran for president, on the landing of the building’s two stairways leading to the front door.
The Carnegie Library in Three Rivers Michigan opened in 1905 and is now an art center. In 1979 the three Rivers Woman’s Club rescued the building from demolition and renovated and restored it to become a Carnegie Center of the Arts which is still going today.
I grew up in Casper, Wyoming and my mother would take us to the Carnegie Library there. That was back when you were expected to only whisper in a library. My love of stories and books began there. It was a beautiful place and I believe it still stands on its corner. I no longer live there, but I’m so grateful for it in my childhood and youth.
I agree that there is a more just way of distributing income and cost in a country. Hopefully as a democracy learns more and there’s less pushback from self into scrubs they will be a more just and fair distribution of resources including information and knowledge. Until then I am grateful that Carnegie decided to increase education. He also funded the Abraham Flexner report that was the cornerstone of positioning American medicine on a scientific basis.
There were 11 Carnegie Libraries in Idaho. The one in Caldwell was recently remodeled and is now the Veteran’s Memorial Hall, with access also through the lower floor.
At Pitt we often went across the street to the art gallery & I was privileged to “sing at Carnegie Hall” with the Heinz Chapel Choir. But Andy wasn’t too popular with people in Pittsburgh, PA, in the ’50’s.
I really enjoyed this story and I’ve enjoyed visiting many of these libraries-but remember even though they were tax payers who supported the libraries, many African-Americans were excluded from using them-well into the 1960s both in the north and south.
There’s a great article on this:
I too have wonderful memories of our local Carnegie Public Library. When we temporarily lived in the same block as the library in Lebanon, Indiana, I was delighted that at 7 my Mother would allow me to walk there and get picture books. Years later the renovated and expanded Carnegie is still on the town square serving a grateful community. Now, as a retired School Media Specialist I continue to be a reader – fond positive thoughts.
I live in Anderson, Indiana and we have a Carnegie library building. It housed the city’s main library when I moved here in the mid 1980s. The library was replaced by a much larger building and now houses a art museum.
My parents and relatives are from Pittsburgh PA and in fact the relatives still live there and surrounding areas. My aunt worked at the Oakland Carnegie library in the sixties, she loves books and this was perfect opportunity.
Great Carnegie Library in Athol, Massachusetts (about 11,000 population). Renovated and enlarged about 5 years ago. BEAUTIFUL!!!!! So glad to have had it when I grew up in Athol. Still visit it often now (except for this past Covid year.)
My great great grandfather, John Bell, was a manager of the Homestead Steelworks and a friend of Carnegie. Upon John’s retirement he was appointed the curator of the Carnegie Library in Munhall, Pennsylvania.
The Carnegie Library in Waukegan, IL still stands. My home away from home. It has been saved from the fate of other great libraries. Now named after one of Waukegan’s favorite sons and benefactor Ray Bradbury.
I spent countless hours at the Carnegie Library in Lewistown, Montana when I lived there full time. I spent so much time there in my youth, that I had a recurring dream of getting locked in at then end of the day and spending the night alone with all the amazing books! I still stop by when I can during my annual visits.
It is a lovely sandstone building built in 1905, and it’s on TripAdvisor’s list of places to see when visiting Lewistown.
Our local library in Glasgow, Scotland, was a Carnegie Library. He built quite a few is his home country. I spent many happy hours there as a child. Sadly, it’s gone now.
After graduating, in 1967, from a relatively small town in western Manitoba my first full-time job was at Winnipeg Public Library Main Branch on William Ave. This was a Carnegie Library. I loved the old building an important centre in many ways.
Our library in Harriman, Tennessee is still operating out of the original Carnegie Library which was built circa 1909 with a grant of $10,000.
The Fayette, Missouri library is a Carnegie library and recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. It houses the Howard County Missouri Genealogical Society and is still serving the needs of the good people of Howard County, Missouri.
The many small communities in Wyoming benefitted from the generosity of Andrew Carnegie.
Our community is home to a beautiful Carnegie Library. It no longer functions as a Library but is privately owned and used for events.
This is the link with a photo.
Our Carnegie library in Aberdeen, SD was built in 1900 (demolished in the 1950s). It is said that it was the only Carnegie library not named after Carnegie, but rather a dear friend of his from Scotland, Alexander Mitchell. Mitchell was the head of the Milwaukee Railroad and I’m sure advanced Carnegie’s fortune. He hailed from Aberdeen, Scotland, our namesake. I can find many other Carnegie libraries with other names, so I’m not sure where this urban legend derived from. Maybe at the time in 1900 it was the only one.
There is still a Carnegie Library located in Las Vegas, New Mexico. I had the privilege of working in their facility in March of 2020. I love architecture of the building located a complete city block. It still has the steam heating, with a boiler located in the basement, along with the restrooms. The staff was outstanding, I was educated on “Carnegie Libraries”. Fun trip.
My childhood home in Little Falls, MN, was only about a block from the Carnegie library. I spent as much time as I could there and my love of libraries has been inherited by my children and grandchildren.
One in Milbank, SD…now a museum!
I love the Carnegie Library in the small town of Albany in northwest Missouri. Their genealogy section holds a wealth of my maternal family history!
Sadly and foolish City of Decatur, Illinois tore ours down for a bank!!!
I remember the Carnegie Library in Alfred, New York when I was growing up. The building is still on Main Street.
My first library job was at a Carnegie library in Western NY. In the early ’70s, the library was moved from the original Carnegie building and into a former supermarket. Accessibility was greatly improved but I would have loved to work in the beautiful building that was left behind. Fortunately, that building still stands and is a restaurant. The library in the nearby village where I live isn’t a Carnegie library but had a generous benefactor of its own. A resident, Mr. E.G. Dusenbury, bought a house and donated it to the village with the stipulation that it would be used as a permanent home for the library collection that had been shuffled around from place to place. It opened in 1910 and continues to benefit from his generosity. Like many before me, I was so fortunate to call it my work home. The house, which will turn 175 next year, is included in the National Register of Historic Places.
While growing up in Nevada, Missouri in the 1950’s, I spent many hours in Nevada’s Carnegie library. I developed a love of books that I continue to have today at age 78.
The Kearny (New Jersey) Library is part of the Andrew Carnegie system. It opened in 1907, and still serves my hometown proudly today.
My Great Grandfather, Louis W. Lindblom, a local real estate developer and banker, served on the Kearny Library Committee. As such, he was one of the two committee members that chose the library’s location, shortly after 1901.
It certainly has stood the test of time. Most every school child from Kearny has been introduced to this institution over the last 114 years.
It’s in the hometown that my family has lived in since the 1870’s, and, I’m proud to know my ancestor played a big part in its origin.
Carnegie and his library system, along with the town of Kearny, NJ, perfect together. A community well served by its existence.
16 March 2021. I grew up in the logging and sawmill town of Coos Bay Oregon. The Carnegie Library was for me the most important building in town. Carnegie’s gift matched the funds of the local Progress Club and made possible the building’s construction and opening in 1911, the women’s Progress Club still exists and the original library yet stands as a landmark overlooking the bug is no longer a library. The books, magazines, maps, and newspapers in the library opened my vistas to a larger world and filled my younger years with many reading adventures. I am forever grateful to Carnegie’s vision and gift that transformed my education. Every trip to the library was an adventure in my boyhood.
There is a Carnegie Library in Auburn, Washington (now a suburb of Seattle) that has been turned into the Auburn Dance Center. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a8/Auburn%2C_WA_-_Auburn_Dance_Center_02.jpg/1280px-Auburn%2C_WA_-_Auburn_Dance_Center_02.jpg
I live in Waterloo, Ia. and we had 2 Carnegie libraries. Our city is divided by a river and there was a rivalry between the East and West sides of the river. There was a fight over which side of the river the library should be located. So to settle the dispute the city decided to ask Mr. Carnegie if they could have 2 libraries, one for each side of the river. He agreed.
I grew up about 10 miles north of Pittsburgh, and as a teenager in the 1950s, on weekends I used to take a city bus down to the Carnegie Library on the north side, which I believe was one of the original. I would spend much of the day browsing through the books, and would also go to the nearby Buhl Planetarium, and the north side market. Later, the library started a bookmobile that brought books out into the suburbs. Still later in the 1960s, while attending Carnegie Tech in Oakland, I would also spend time at the big Carnegie library that was on the Pitt campus. I can’t find the words to express how much those three portions of the Carnegie Library system contributed to my education.
Years ago, while visiting Pittsburgh, I tried to drive through the north side to find the old buildings, but was unable to locate them, which was sad. More recently, I have tried to use Google-Maps hoping to find remnants of the old north side library and the planetarium, but they seem to have been eaten up by the Allegheny Commons area and the library have been relocated. Is the original building still there anywhere?
I think this is the building you are looking for on the North Side of Pittsburgh. The library portion of the building closed after it was damaged by lightning in the early 2000s.
The old Buhl planetarium building is now part of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and in normal times is open to visitors.
The public library building in Pottsville, Pennsylvania is a Carnegie library. They received a Carnegie grant in 1915 but construction of the new library was delayed by World War I. In 1921 the grant was no longer enough so local donations to double the amount were required. That 1922 building is still in use as a library: it was expanded in 1998, more than doubling in size. My desk and office are in the original building where the Reference Department and public computers take up the entire first floor. Large arched windows facing west mean there is always light in this room during the day, even during power outages. But let me tell you, trying to get this old, solid building networked for internet access is a nightmare.
Thank you for this post. Unfortunately, I didn’t live in a town/city that had a functioning “public library” until college in 1962. I depended on the World Book Encyclopedia, small collections in my various school classrooms, and the trade in books among my friends. I now (pre-pandemic) enjoy the services of several public libraries and can’t wait until it is safe to visit again.
Lamentably, this post effectively erases the larger questions and problems embedded in the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie. For an alternative reading that places his alleged gifts in a fuller context, readers may want to check out my book, “The Battle for Homestead: Politics, Culture, and Steel,” published in 1992 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. There also is a prize-winning article in the “Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine.” Why we remain so resistant to considering the dark underbelly of Carnegie’s generosity remains, in my view, a deeply puzzling quandary. I say this as a native of Pittsburgh, and as the son and grandson of proud residents of Braddock, Pa.
Just saw the beautiful little Carnegie-funded library in Canon City, Colorado last weekend. Such a treasure!
Here’s Wikipedia’s list of all the Carnegie-funded libraries in Colorado – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Carnegie_libraries_in_Colorado
Had no idea there were so many!
Now I want to see them all!
I spent many hours in the Carnegie Free Library in McKeesport, PA. It still stands.
Our town of Kalispell, Montana had a Carnegie Library. I loved the architecture of it. I no longer live there and am uncertain of its present status.
I grew up in the 1950s & 60s a few blocks from the Carnegie library in Oakland in Pittsburgh, PA. Some of my fondest memories were in there & the museum.
i grew up in canton, PA. the town library there was called the “green free library”. from the description of Carnegie libraries, i think Canton’s was one also. High ceilings, lots of windows, brick construction. I especially remember (50’s) the room with big tables where the local weekly newspaper was stacked , spread out. thankfully someone(s) maintained the complete library copy of the paper now scanned and available on newspaper.com. I have been going through finding info on all my dad’s relatives who lived in Bradford county, PA. Invaluable !
After posting about the Pgh north side library that I used when a teenager, but could not locate via Googlemaps, I eventually found it. See tinyurl.com/69n7zpap which shows the old library entrance, and at tinyurl.com/3z2a7db5 which shows the Carnegie Hall at the other side of the building. It is now occupied by the New Hazlett Theater and a Museum Lab. I am happy to find that the building is still there. Apparently this was the first Carnegie library to be commissioned in the US, although the Braddock library opened first, which I didn’t know before.
After looking at the list of Carnegie libraries in the US, I decided to look for libraries in Maine, where I live now, and found that a library in Auburn, Me that I had visited on two occasions to view some microfilm I had purchased to find WWII records re my late father, was also a Carnegie Grant library as well. They let me use their microfilm viewer while libraries nearer to where I live wouldn’t. So I am grateful for yet another Carnegie funded library.
I understand that there are negative aspects relative to how Carnegie obtained his fortune, however in my opinion the positive aspects relative to the good that have and still come from the libraries and museums that his grants have funded far outweigh the negatives.
The Carnegie library in Springfield, Massachusetts is absolutely stunning. It was built with white Vermont marble, has the characteristic Carnegie front steps and is located next to the museum quadrangle right by the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden.
I worked in the children’s room all through high school and the Dr. Seuss books were very popular. Keeping all those narrow books in order was almost impossible! Dr. Seuss grew up in Springfield and lived on Mulberry Street which was a few blocks away. Here is some history and pictures of the building.
One of the pictures is of the stacks, way below ground. Before I left there was a man down in the stacks who was photographing all the old newspapers so they could be read on microfilm. Not shown in the photos was the elevator down to the stacks that was large enough for one person and a library book cart. It was scary!
If you go there make sure you check out the interior columns and rotunda. Beautiful detail.
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