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.

Images

Carnegie Library Construction

Carnegie Library Construction

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library 1930s

Carnegie Library 1930s

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library Reading Room early 1900s

Carnegie Library Reading Room early 1900s

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library Postcard

Carnegie Library Postcard

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library early 1900s: Cataloging Room and Reference Room

Carnegie Library early 1900s: Cataloging Room and Reference Room

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library: Women's Reading Room

Carnegie Library: Women's Reading Room

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library Construction Workers

Carnegie Library Construction Workers

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library: circa early 1900s

Carnegie Library: circa early 1900s

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library 1940s

Carnegie Library 1940s

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

Image Courtesy of the Northwest Room, Spokane Public Library. Spokane, Wa. View File Details Page

Audio

Community Historian Jim Price

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Cite this Page:

Lacey Sipos, “The Carnegie Library,” Spokane Historical, accessed May 30, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/278.
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