Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

Superior’s Carnegie Library Buildings

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Superior Carnegie Library - Central
 
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Superior, WI was one of three communities in Wisconsin to receive grants from Andrew Carnegie for two library buildings. The other two communities were Madison and Racine. Both of Superior’s Carnegie buildings are at risk. The old central library was abandoned in 1991 when the public library moved to new quarters, and is currently for sale. The sale price is $125,000 and it would probably cost a few hundred thousand more to restore. There was a recent article about the status of the central library which included a number of interior pictures. The branch library in Superior was converted to a private residence (also in 1991) and is still occupied by the owner.  However, it is overgrown with vegetation and looks like it could use some TLC. There is more information about both of the Carnegie buildings on the Library History Buff website.

 

Some Libraries Sharing Municipal Facilities

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Appleton Public Library
In the previous blog post I discussed some newly completed “stand alone” library buildings in Wisconsin in 1904.  Libraries, however, often shared a facility with another part of municipal government. This often preceded a separate library building. For smaller communities this was more common.  One example of a larger community where this occurred is the public library in Appleton, WI (see postcard above). Appleton dedicated a new municipal building in 1900. The public library occupied the first floor of the building and the City Hall was located on the second floor. This arrangement continued until 1939 when the City Hall moved out of the building, and the library occupied the entire building. 
Clinton Public Library
The Clinton Public Library (above)shared a building with the city hall and the fire department. The library was located on the left side of the building and the fire department on the right side with the City Hall in the middle. Note the fire lookout tower behind the fire station.
Portage Public Library
The Portage Public Library (above) shared a building with the armory (for Company F) and the city hall. The library was on the left, the armory in the middle, and the city hall on the right.
Stoughton Public LibraryThe Stoughton Public Library shared a building with the city hall and an opera house. 
These are only a few examples of public libraries that shared a municipal facility.

Wisconsin's Library Lions

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Oshkosh postcard

By far the most famous library lions are those that grace the front entrance of the New York Public Library's building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. The Oshkosh Public Library in Wisconsin also has a pair of library lions and, like those in New York, they have provided an important visual symbol of the public library. Also like the lions of the New York Public Library, the library lions in Oshkosh are named. They were named Harris and Sawyer in 1977 for two of the prominent early donors to the library.  Earlier this month the Oshkosh Public Library celebrated the 100th anniversary of the installation of the lions in front of the library in 1912. The celebration included a variety of activities including a "Lion's Pride" mini sculpture contest. The lions sit in front of the library that was built in 1900. A major expansion and renovation of the building took place in 1994. The Oshkosh Public Library has a commemorative history of the lions as well as an overall history of the library on its website. The website of the New York Public Library has a page on its lions. There is also a good printed history of the New York Public Library lions titled Top Cats: The Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions by Susan G. Larkin (Pomegranate, 2006).

 This post was previously published in The Library History Buff Blog.

 

Fennimore's Public Library

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On a recent trip I stopped in at both the Southwest Wisconsin Library System and the Dwight T. Parker Public Library in Fennimore, Wisconsin. The Public Library is housed in a building which is on the National Register of Historic Places . It was constructed in 1923 and was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck which designed many of Wisconsin's public libraries. The style of the building is impressive and is described as follows by the Wisconsin Historical Society: "The structure incorporates Mediterranean and NeoClassical elements into a rectangular mass reminiscent of their Prairie School designs. Large brackets support the wide overhanging eaves of the clay tile roof. A central NeoClassical entrance projects from the front façade. Terracotta details such as a pediment, colonettes, arches, and bracketed sills accent the simple brick motif." The building was built through the generosity of Dwight T. Parker, a prominent local leader and banker. Parker later left a trust fund to help fund the library also. It is unusual that the library which is 87 years old does not have an addition. If you're ever passing through Fennimore it is well worth a stop. While at the SWLS I was able to pick up a few "no longer in use" library artifacts, and was able to witness the demise of their card catalog from which I salvage a few catalog cards. The SWLS celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.


Former De Pere Public Library

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Thanks to Paul Nelson's Retiring Guy's Digest Blog I recently became aware of a story in the Green Bay Press Gazette about the former De Pere Public Library building. I have a postcard of the building which is shown above. I found out more about the building and its history from a survey of Wisconsin's historic public libraries which was conducted by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1999. According to the survey the building was designed by the Green Bay architectural firm of Foeller, Schober, and Berners and was erected in 1936 but because of some delays it wasn't opened until 1937. The building is described as a one-story Colonial Revival building that is C-shaped in plan, wrapping around a courtyard garden. It is finished with random, coursed limestone. Below is more about the historic timeline for the De Pere library. The source for some of this information is a paper by Michael C. Vande Hei written in 1985 and entitled "History of the De Pere Public Library 1896-1968".


Public library service in De Pere, Wisconsin dates back to 1878 when a public library was established in the Congregational Church by Reverend E. P. Salmon. In 1889 a public library board was organized to oversee the Salmon collection. The City of De Pere acquired the collection in 1896. In 1937 the public library opened in a new building which was partially funded by the Public Works Administration, a federal program. An addition was added to the building in 1963. In 1968 the De Pere Public Library became part of the newly created Brown County Library. The 1937 building was closed in 2003 and the library was moved to the new Kress Family Branch Library.


Wausaukee's First Free Library

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Harlan P. Bird (1838-1912) made his fortune in the lumber business in Northeastern Wisconsin. In 1902 he established the Wausaukee Free Library from his own funds in the hope that it would prove "sufficiently popular to draw from places of evil resort." He was elected as a state senator in 1902 and served two terms in the legislature. He served as President of the Wisconsin Library Association in 1904-1905.  The library was part of a "social hall" that also included a reading-room, lunch and dining room, and amusement room. Unfortunately the venture proved to be too costly and Senator Bird abandoned this experiment. The image above is WHi-65460 from the Wisconsin Historical Images collection and is part of a collection of public library photographs from the Wisconsin Free Library Commission. Wausaukee is now served by the Wausaukee Branch of the Marinette County Consolidated Public Library Service.


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  • Caroline McMahon Unick says #
    Dear Larry, There is such a thing as serendipity! I was just browsing the Chatham Libraries website and saw your page. I saw the ...
  • Larry Nix says #
    Caroline, thanks for commenting on the post and sharing your connection with Wausaukee and Marinette County. Larry
  • Brian Hartnell says #
    Just found your site and the historical info on the library from one of my sources. The web site www.wausaukee.com has this image ...

Milwaukee Soldiers Home Library

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The postcard above shows the historic Wadsworth Library which was built in 1891 and is part of the National Soldiers Home complex in Milwaukee. It is also now part of the Northwestern Branch, National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The Soldiers Home complex was like a village and included, in addition to the library, residential buildings, a post office (Wood, Wisconsin), a recreational hall, and a chapel. The Milwaukee Soldiers Home Foundation has been established to help preserve and restore the buildings in the complex. The Wadsworth Library is designated as Building #3 in the complex and was named for a member of the Board of Managers of the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. At one point the library which served those living at the home had as many as 23,000 books. On June 30, 1998, a fire heavily damaged the library and its contents. The historic district is part of the Milwaukee Veterans Administration Medical Center complex on Milwaukee's west side.


Addendum:


Patricia Lynch provides this additional information about the Wadsworth Library:


The Wadsworth Library continues to serve patients of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. It is open year-round on a regular basis and receives special attention during Reclaiming Our Heritage, the annual veteran tribute and living history event at the VA Medical Center the weekend after Memorial Day. During the event it is open to the general public and is filled with displays on the history of the library and other exhibits. The West Side Soldiers Aid Society supports, among other worthy causes, the Milwaukee VA patient libraries. Information on Reclaiming Our Heritage is available at www.forohmilwaukee.org.


 
 


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  • David Pilgrim says #
    Hello, My name is Dave Pilgrm. My great great grabdfather fought in the civil war for the 29th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He d...
  • Larry Nix says #
    Thanks Patricia for this very helpful information.
  • Patricia A. Lynch says #
    The Wadsworth Library continues to serve patients of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. It is open year-round on a regular...

WLA 1905 Conference

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The postcard above was mailed to the Public Library in Galena, Illinois on February 14, 1905. The picture side of the postcard shows the Beloit Public Library and has the written message: "You are cordially invited to attend the meetings of the Wis State Lib. Asst. on Feb. 22-23 -". It is signed  M. W. Bell.  The postcard is part of a postcard collection that was collected by Anna Felt, a trustee and benefactor of the Galena Public Library.  "M. W. Bell" was Martha W. Bell, the Library Director of the Beloit Public Library. The Wisconsin Library Association meeting was the 15th annual meeting of the association which was established in 1891, and it took place in Beloit on February 22 and 23, 1905. The announcement of the meeting was made in the first issue of the Wisconsin Library Bulletin which was published in January, 1905. A report of the meeting was included in the second issue of the bulletin. Attending the conference were 29 representatives of free public libraries which included both trustees and librarians, four representatives of school and college libraries, one representative of a subscription library, and one representative of a traveling library. H. P. Bird, President of the Association, made the following opening statement: "The one purpose in view friends is to enlarge the understanding, widen the intellectual view, and so increase the happiness, the usefulness and the capacity of our citizens, one and all."  H. P. Bird was a State Senator and had incorporated a library in the recreational center which he had built in Wausaukee for lumberjacks. All the sessions of the conference were held in the new Beloit Public Library which had received a grant from Andrew Carnegie. Conference attendees were also able to visit two other Carnegie financed libraries in Rock County - the Beloit College Library and the Janesville Public Library.


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  • Joan Goertz says #
    I have a postcard of the Beloit College Library, Beloit, Wis. dated November 9, 1905, sent to a Mrs. J.S. Campbell in New Have Con...

Milwaukee Public Library Postcards

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As might be expected, there is a direct correlation between the grandeur of a library building and the number of postcards that have depicted the library building. So it is not surprising that the Central Library of the Milwaukee Public Library which was completed in 1898 is depicted on a great many picture postcards. In my personal collection, I have over 20 different Milwaukee Public Library postcards. The year 1898 is significant in the world of postcards since this is the year that Congress authorized Private Mailing Cards that could be mailed at the one cent rate. Previously postcards required postage of two cents. This was the beginning of what is considered to be the golden age of picture postcards which lasted until the beginning of World War I.  There is nothing special about the view of the Milwaukee Public Library on the postcard which is shown above. However, the address side of the postcard shows that this card was carried on the LZ127 Zeppelin air ship from Lakehurst, N. J. to Friedrichshafen, Germany and back. This make the postcard very special to philatelist who collect mail that has been flown on Zeppelins. The postcard below is an unusual double postcard which is twice the size of a standard postcard.

 


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Log Cabin Library Visit

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On a recent trip "Up North", I had a chance to visit one of Wisconsin's log cabin libraries. In this instance it was the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin. I have an old postcard of the library and I originally wrote about the library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center website thinking it was the only, or at least the oldest, such library in the state. I was quickly informed that there was another older log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which is the Wabeno Public Library. I then posted an additional entry on the WLHC website.  Both libraries are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Wisconsin Historical Society maintains a listing of buildings on the State and National Registers of Historical Places. The entry for the Forest Lodge Library indicates that the library was donated in 1925 by Mary Livingston Griggs, a prominent member of society in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Griggs who also designed the library dedicated it to her mother in memory of their family lodge and estate at nearby Lake Namekagon. A short vacation on Lake Namekagon was the purpose of my recent trip. The Wisconsin Historical Society entry for the Wabeno log cabin library indicates that it was originally built as the Chicago and North Western Railroad Land Office in 1875. It was evidently turned over to the City of Wabeno to be used as a public library in 1923. Both Libraries are on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.

Note: To find other Wisconsin libraries on the Wisconsin Historical Society's listing of buildings on the State and National Registers of Historical Places, choose Education as the Historic Function and Libraries as the Historic Subfunction. Select "All Counties" if you want to see historic libraries in the whole state.

Historical Society Building Rennovation

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As reported previously the Wisconsin Historical Society is rennovating parts of its main building on State Street including it magnificent reading room. The Society recently updated information about the rennovation in the "Highlights Archives" section of its website. A previous post told about the visit to the Wisconsin Historical Society Library by attendees of the 1901 American Library Association Coference in Waukesha.


Oshkosh Public Library May 29, 1895

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The "On This Day" feature of the Wisconsin Historical Society's website alerted me to the information that on this day in 1895 the voters of Oshkosh, WI approved the establishment of a free public library. The Oshkosh Public Library was the beneficiary of private and public funding totaling $150,000 that resulted in the construction of a grand new library building which opened in 1900..  The architect for the building was William Waters who had designed the Wisconsin building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  The 1900 building is incorporated into the current library building which was completed in 1994. An excellent history of the library and its building is located on the library's website.



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Historic Preservation Month

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May is National Preservation Month and this year's them is "This Place Matters!".  The website for the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides background information on National Preservation Month for 2009.  The Wisconsin Historical Society provides the leadership for historic preservation in Wisconsin. Ironically the Wisconsin Historical Society's headquarters building has been in need of restoration for years. In my opinion this building is second only to the State Capitol in Wisconsin in its historic importance. This place definitely matters.  Fortunately, good things are about to happen to this wonderful building. The magnificent reading room on the second floor is about to undergo a full restoration, and the front entrance to the building will also be restored. The building was completed in 1900 and was designed to house both the Wisconsin Historical Society Library and the University of Wisconsin Library.  Jackson E. Town has written about the inception of the building in the Wisconsin Magazine of History in the Winter 1955-56 issue. When the American Library Association met in Waukesha in 1901, conference attendees came to Madison to visit the newly completed building and, "There was but one opinion of the entire party in regard to the beauty and arrangement of the building, and that was satisfactory to the highest degree." More on the history of the building can be found here. Wisconsin is celebrating Historic Preservation and Archaeology Month with a number of activities.


Academy Libraries

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Among the earliest libraries in Wisconsin were the libraries of academies. Academies were basically private high schools and often preceded colleges or universities. Carroll College in Waukesha County was originally incorporated in 1841 as Prairieville Academy in the Town of Prairieville in Milwaukee County. Plattevillw Academy established in 1843 preceded the State Normal School at Platteville, later the University of Wisconsin - Platteville. Milton Academy established in 1844 preceded Milton College. Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin was established in 1855 and went through a number of ups and downs before finally becoming a co-educational private academy which it continues as today. Wayland Hall, the first building of Wayland Academy, housed the library. A major rennovation of Wayland Hall began in March of this year. The real photograph postcard (RPPC) above shows an early view of the interior of the well appointed Wayland Academy library.


Railroad car library

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The Wisconsin Historical Society has many physical and digital resources of interest and value to the library history buff.  A fellow library history buff made me aware of an image (Image ID 4293) in the Historical Society's digital collection that pictured a railroad car library.  The location of the railroad car library was given as "probably in the Madison area".  However, in searching another digital collection of the Historical Society (Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles), I came across an article in the October 30, 1938 issue of the Milwaukee Journal that told the story behind the railroad car library.  According to the article, the library was located in Adams, Wisconsin, and the car was donated by the North Western Railroad at the request of the Adams Library Association (a membership library) in 1929. By 1937, the library had 2,088 books that were supplemented with 2,000 more from the state library commission.  The city of Adams was only providing $314 a year to support the library. Today, Adams is home to the Adams County Public Library, a much more substantial library. Dan Calef, Director of the Adams County Public Library, is a Founding Contributor of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. Thanks Dan. 


ALA Madison Day 1901

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The 1901 Conference of the American Library Association took place in Waukesha. In the early Monday morning hours of July 8, 1901 the entire group of attendees went by train to Madison. As reported in the magazine Pulic Libraries, "They were met on their arrival by a local committee, carriages were provided and the party was taken to various points of interest about the city and through the beautiful drives adjoining the university grounds."  Later that afternoon "... the party was led through the new Historical library building... There was but one opinion of the entire party in regard to the beauty and arrangement of the building, and that was satisfactory to the highest degree. The beautiful reading-room was greatly admired by everyone, and even those who are wont to think that Bates hall [in the Boston Public Library] and the halls of the Congressional library at Washington are beyond compare, were willing to admit that the enthusiasm and praise of the room were merited." Madison Day ended with a group picture on the steps of the Historical library. "The party returned to Waukesha well pleased with its trip and delighted with the hospitality of the Madison people."

Plans are underway to restore the Reading Room of the State Historical Society to its original grandeur.

The image of those attending Madison Day is from the Wisconsin Historical Image collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Image ID: 45544.

Wisconsin Rapids Public Library History

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This postcard shows the public library building for Grand Rapids (now Wisconsin Rapids). It was completed in 1892. The library shared the building with the city council and the fire department initially, but the library took over the entire building in 1900. The library was named the T. B. Scott Free Public Library at that time after T. B. Scott who donated $5,000 to the library. The library was located in this building until 1948.  


The folks at the McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids, formerly the T. B. Scott Free Public Library,  have done an especially good job of telling the library's story on their website. A recent addition to their website is a Google map of the previous locations of the library with photos and descriptions.  Also on the website is an online version of Centennial Story 1890-1990 : McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin
by Alice McCaul Hayward.  There is a section devoted to the traveling libraries initiated by J. D. Witter in Wood County. Information about other Wisconsin traveling libraries can be found here. Finally there is a section that includes digitized newspaper articles that were written in 1921 about the early years of the library. A mural showing the history of the library is located near the entrance to the library. This mural is shown as part of the new Google map feature. 


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    I'm sorry, but the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is not in position to do the kind of research which you request. Our area of...
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    Dear Sir, Madam: Please assist me in regard of the following. I do research about US servicemen that were killed in WW 2 in and ne...

Claude and Starck Libraries

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Library history buffs and those interested in architecture won't want to miss a program at the WLA Conference in Middleton on the Wisconsin Carnegie libraries designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Stark.  The program is entitled "The Shared Ideal: The Carnegie Libraries of Claude & Starck" and will take place in the La Crosse Room of the Marriott on Thursday, November 6 from 4:00 to 5:15.  The presenter will be Sheridan A. Glen, Board Member, Madison Center for Creative and Cultural Arts. The description of the program in the WLA Program reads as follows:


"The Madison architectural firm of Claude & Starck received commissions for 25 of 63 Carnegie libraries built in Wisconsin. This slide show, illustrated by postcards, will show the different styles—Classical, Sullivanesque, Prairie, Original, English Gothic, and Swiss Chalet—that Claude and Starck developed for Wisconsin libraries. The legacy of their beautiful libraries seems particularly meaningful, given the importance these libraries were to the development of small town America."


According to Kristin Visser in Frank Loyd Wright & the Prairie School in Wisconsin, the architectural partnership of Louis Claude and Edward Starck designed hundreds of buildings in Madison and the Midwest including over 40 library buildings.


The Columbus Public Library which was dedicated on November 1, 1912 was one of those library buildings.  According to Visser, "The Columbus library is unique among Claude and Starck designs in that it combines elembents of Prairie sbyle with English cottage decorative features."


The Columbus Public Library which is shown on the postcard below is on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


 



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Another Log Cabin Library

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On September 10, I posted an entry about the Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin which claims to be the oldest log cabin library in the state. That claim has been challenged by the Wabeno Public Library in Forest County which is also located in a log building. Lois Radloff, Director of the Wabeno Public Library, has provided the following information about the library building.



In 1993, the Wabeno Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The research for that designation was completed by the Nicolet National Forest Service in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  The structure was completed by the Chicago Northwestern Railroad as its land office in 1895.  The application for designation on the National Register states "the Land Office turned the building over to the city of Wabeno in 1923 to be used as the library."  It has been in continual use as a library to this day.


Thanks to Lois for bringing this information to our attention.  We have included the Wabeno Public Library on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.


Wisconsin's Oldest Log Cabin Library

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The Forest Lodge Library in Cable, Wisconsin claims to be Wisconsin's oldest log cabin library. Are there really more?  The library was founded in 1925 and has been in the same building throughout its history.  Located on County M in Cable, it's certainly worth a visit, so we've added it to the Library Heritage Trail page of the WLHC website. The Forest Lodge Library does something that every library should do.  On its website, it has an "About the Library" section and in this section it has a brief history of the library. Your library's heritage should be part of your marketing/public relations plan and the library's website is a great place to put it front and center.


Update: As it turns out there is another log cabin library in Wabeno, Wisconsin which also claims to be the oldest log cabin library. See the entry on the Wabeno Public Library here.  


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