Archive for August, 2013

Our Beautiful Hometown Carnegie Library in 1908

The following is from a Nov. 28, 1908 newspaper describing our Carnegie Library.  I LOVED the way people wrote over a century ago. 

“It is hardly possible to give an adequate conception of the new library building – it must be seen in order to appreciate the beauty of structure and the harmony of design. It is, however, a building which the people of the city may take pride in and can refer to it as one of the most complete and serviceable libraries that can be found in the country.

It has a frontage of 57 feet, with a depth of 47 feet. It has a beautiful classic design. The entablature is supported by four Roman Ionic stone columns each weighing one and half tons. Stone steps lead up to the portico, the floor of which is marblelite tile. On each side of the entrance there are electrolliers, 5 ½ feet high which illuminate the entire front. The exterior of the building is a gray Bedford limestone and St. Louis Roman size pressed brick. The height of the façade of the building is 25 feet. The dome on the exterior is 40 feet high from the ground to the top of the ornament and is covered with sheet copper shaped to make the design.

Entering the building you are ushered into a vestibule 7 by 7 1/3 feet, with mosaic tile floor and oak wainscoting. Coat rooms for adults and children to the right and left side of the vestibule and large double acting doors leading into the lobby. Over entrance doors and vestibule are designs in art glass.

The delivery room or lobby is 16 by 12 feet in diameter. It is 30 ½ feet from the floor to the top of dome which is lighted with one frosted Tunsten reflector and at the base a circle of small frosted lights.  Dome is lighted in day time with small art glass windows of design and color to harmonize with other colors used on the interior. Four Roman Ionic columns and four Roman pilasters in oak on pedastals mark the openings of each side of the lobby. Passing through these on the right you enter the children’s reading room, 18 by 25 feet. On the left is the adults’ reading room of the same dimensions.  Both are finished in oak with a nut brown flat finish. They are finished with four large massive library tables designed by the architect on the same lines as the balance of the interior finish. The height of the reading room ceilings are 15 feet and both rooms are plentifully supplied with light.

In the rear of the delivery room is the stack rooms, separated by large oak finished areaways, as you pass the check desk where the librarian will have charge. The room is 16 by 30 feet. This room has a capacity of 15,000 books. It is well lighted, the windows in the rear being high and so arranged as to throw light between each book stack. The space under these windows will be utilized for book shelves. To the right of the stack room is a small room which may be used for reference room, while to the right is the librarians private room. The entire first floor is so arranged that the librarian, seated at the check desk may be able to see every portion of the first floor and this feature is one of the best that has been given consideration. All the floors throughout the first floor have been covered with a heavy cork carpet which is entirely noiseless.

The basement floor – to the right of the stack room is the stairway leading to the basement. On the south side of the building there is also an entrance leading to this stairway.  As you enter the basement…paper file room, 11 by 16 feet and then comes the boiler and fuel room. On this side of the building are also the ladies and gentlemen’s toilets and lavatories, both supplied with hot and cold water. Next to the boiler room is the public rest room, neatly finished and decorated, with maple floors.  This room is 18 by 25 feet. To the left of the corridor is the lecture room. This has a maple floor and is decorated in harmony with the rest of the basement rooms.  The capacity of this room is 100 chairs. In the north end of the room is a raised platform.

The building is supported by iron columns and steel girders, concealed in the partitions, making for the greatest durability. The structure has been erected from the plans of Bert D. Keck and exhibits his thorough mastery over details; the color scheme testifies to his beauty of conception, and the library as a whole displays his thorough mastery of his profession. The completed building also is a work that entitles the contractor, Charles Ross, to great consideration.”

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My hometown benefited a century ago from Andrew Carnegie as the philanthropic entrepreneur

If you haven’t seen much of my writing on this blog, it is because I have been busy working on the Carnegie library in my hometown. There are many people who are supporting this effort of restoring the grand old building. Thankfully it is on the National Historical Register. On July 12th was the deadline for when I wrote a grant for $10,000 just to have an architectural engineer come in to look at the 50 ‘ x 50’ structure. Hopefully that will happen in October and then our historical society can proceed with the $50,000 grant that will help get this place back to pristine shape.
This building was designed by Bert Keck and completed in 1908. They had their dedication for the building on November 27, 1908 where movers and shakers from the community gave their speeches. I think if the great philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, were alive today he would be proud of the fact that his legacy continues. That cannot be said of many of the other libraries that he donated money to throughout the U.S. Sadly, some have been torn down in the name of “progress.” In fact, Carnegie gave $38,256,864 to have 1,539 libraries built throughout the U.S. with his name on them. The other day, we visited one in Grafton, North Dakota built in 1904. But by far, ours is bigger and much more beautiful. But then, it shows that my hometown had a LOT of money rolling through it over 100 years ago.
Our place will be known as the “Archival Storage Facility” where historical records of the county and city will be stored downstairs for archivists and researchers to go through. Upstairs where it looks grand with pillars and archways, will be for art displays, wedding receptions, mini-concerts, lectures, Powerpoint presentations, etc. We have much work to do to restore the place to its original look. We need to take down the florescent lights and put in old time fans and domed light bulbs. We need to take up the linoleum flooring and have an expert come to refinish the hardwood floors. Already we took out all the books that had been stored on the main floor, but they all need to be cataloged and inputted on “Past Perfect” software. Oh, the dust! We have had new sheetrock put in and a fresh paint job on all the walls. We will open this to the public on August 15th so they can see our “work-in-progress.”
Not sure why the photos that were taken by a colleague, friend of mine cannot be uploaded. I’ll work on that problem. He is inspired to help on our “clean-up” day on August 10th. We will have a former resident of our community come to take photos of six of his siblings who were sitting around a table in 1962 downstairs in the children’s section. They are all still living fifty years later and he will re-enact the photo if they all make it to their reunion. The amazing thing is he also donated the very table they were sitting around. We went to North Dakota several days ago thinking we were going to pay him $400 but he said the golden oak table was priceless, no dollar amount could be assigned to it. He was giving it back to our historical society to be put back into use in the restored Carnegie library. From big gift of $17,500 from Carnegie over one hundred years ago, to this gift, we feel blessed beyond measure with all the other donations that are coming in.

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