The Carnegie Library

In 1905, a growing city needed a new library. Carnegie libraries were built with donated funds from the Scottish-American millionaire Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie believed that a "man who dies rich, dies disgraced," thusly he gave away much of his vast fortune towards the end of his life. Between 1883 and 1929, Carnegie funded the construction of 1,689 libraries across the United States. The Carnegie Formula required cities to monetarily match the donation, demonstrate the need for a library, provide the site, provide ten percent of the cost of the construction on a yearly basis, and provide free service to all.

A small group of women formed Spokane's first Public Library in 1884 and filled their meager collection with books donated by their community. Spokane was awarded a Carnegie grant and in 1905 the Carnegie Library completed construction. A donation of $85,000 by A.B. Campbell covered the construction cost that was expected from the city according to the Carnegie Formula. Preusse and Zittel, two well-known architects in the area, designed the building. A new library was later built and the building before you that use to house books became a place for nurses to train.

The building in front of you is a two-story brick building with four white Corinthian columns with a colossal portico. Underneath the centered main entrance is a foundation of Tenino sandstone, which highlights the attractiveness of the columns above it that are made of the same material. Most of the windows are slightly arched and there is an interior courtyard under a skylight that let in ample amounts of sunlight for former library patrons. If you can peek in the window, you will also see large ornamental brick fireplaces in almost every room.

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Community Historian Jim Price

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