My wife and I installed the exhibit "Andrew Carnegie's Wisconsin Library Legacy" early this week at the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill, Wisconsin. The exhibit is sponsored by the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. This year is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Carnegie library building in Merrill. A major addition to the building was completed in 2001. The integration of the older building with the new addition has been done remarkably well. The original Carnegie building was designed by the architectural firm of Claude & Starck in the Prairie School style pioneered by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. The Claude & Starck firm which designed over 40 libraries employed the Prairies School style in a number of them. Seven of those library buildings have been referred to as the "seven sisters" because they share as a design element an ornamental frieze designed (or based on a design) by Sullivan. Wisconsin is the location of four of the seven sisters (Barron, Evansville, Merrill, and Tomah). The others are located in Rochelle, IL, Detroit Lakes, MN, and Hoquiam, WA. The T. B. Scott Free Library has conducted a number of activities to celebrate the centennial of its building during 2011. On Nov. 6, Ellsworth Brown, Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society will make a presentation at the library titled "Andrew Carnegie: The Great Library Benefactor's Life & Mission". It's really great to have the Carnegie exhibit in a Carnegie library building. The exhibit will continue through the end of the year. (This post is also being published on the Library History Buff Blog)
This is a follow-up post to a post on the Milwaukee Soldiers Home Library (Wadsworth Library) that I made on January 4th of this year. As a result of that post, Patricia Lynch informed me that the Wadsworth Library built in 1891 continues to serve patients of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center. She also noted that during an annual event called Reclaiming Our Heritage at the VA Medical Center the Wadsworth Library is open to the general public and is filled with displays on the history of the library and other exhibits. Reclaiming Our Heritage occurs on the weekend after Memorial Day and this year my wife and I took advantage of this opportunity to visit the library. The pictures above are a result of our visit. I was particularly intrigued by a photo of a dog on a display bulletin board with the caption "Smokey Peterson, The Wadsworth Library Mascot and 3rd Overdue Book Collector. Retired 1990." It would be great to find out more about the canine overdue book collectors.
The public library in Eau Claire (now named the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library) has benefited from the generosity of several benefactors over the years. An online history of the early years of the public library can be found HERE. In 1894 the library was given rent free space in the new Ingram Building by lumberman Orin H. Ingram. The Ingram Building is shown in the first postcard above. In 1902 a grant of $40,000 was obtained from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building and the grand opening of the building was held on April 21, 1904, just over 106 years ago. A copy of the letter requesting the grant from Andrew Carnegie is located HERE. The second postcard shows the exterior of the Carnegie building and the third postcard shows the interior.
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.
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.
The images above are from the dedication program for a new library building for Northland College in Ashland on June 14, 1941. The Jean Nicolet Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) played a large role in funding the building which was a replica of "Wakefield", the birthplace of George Washington. George C. Allez, Director of the Wisconsin Library School (now the School of Library and Information Studies at UW-Madison), gave the dedication address. The inside the brochure reads in part: "On a hilltop campus, yesterday a part of America's advancing frontier, today at the center of the teeming North American continent, is dedicated this day a new Wakefield, replica of the birthplace of the Father of His Country, sponsored by the women descendents of the gallant men who fought for freedom in the New World." The current Northland College library is the Dexter Library which is located in a more modern facility. The 1941 building is now used by the College for the admissions department.
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.
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.
Plymouth Public Library. The Carnegie building is preserved in its entirety with a major 1988 addition at the rear of the building. The City of Plymouth received its $10,000 Carnegie grant in 1908, but the building was not completed until 1915. The addition was added to the building in 1988. The main entrance to the expanded building is located at 130 Division Street but the Carnegie building faces E. North Main Street. The Wisconsin Historical Society has determined that the building is eligible to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. There is a Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory (AHI) record for the building. Search under Sheboygan County for Plymouth Public Library. The building is listed on the Wisconsin Library Heritage Trail.
Two communities in Sheboygan County received grants from Andrew Carnegie for public library buildings. Unlike the City of Sheboygan, the City of Plymouth chose to preserve and incorporate its Carnegie building into a new expanded
Of the 63 public library buildings and two academic library buildings built with assistance from Andrew Carnegie in Wisconsin, fourteen have been razed. The buildings were located in the following communities: Appleton (Lawrence University), Beloit, Chippewa Falls, Fond du Lac, Madison (Central Library), Manitowoc, Neenah, Rice Lake, Richland Center, Sheboygan, South Milwaukee, Stevens Point, Wausau, and Wauwatosa. When the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan razed the Carnegie building for a garden, it kept part of the building's facade which is shown to the left. When Chippewa Falls razed its Carnegie building, it preserved the columns that were in front of the building. These columns now adorn the front of a furniture store. The Carnegie building in Superior has stood vacant for many years and is at risk.
The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit will be on display at the Door County Library in Sturgeon Bay for September and most of October. Displaying the exhibit in libraries around the state is a project of the Wisconsin Library Heritage Center. The exhibit is curated by Larry Nix, Chair of the WLHC Steering Committee. The display cases at the Sturgeon Bay library are conveniently located immediately adjacent to the entrance and right in front of the computer lab. Sturgeon Bay is one of sixty communities in Wisconsin that received a grant from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building. The Carnegie building in Sturgeon Bay, which is one block north of the current library, is shown below. The building which is covered with ivy serves as the office building for an accounting firm. For more information about the exhibit click here.
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.
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.
I previously wrote a post on Carnegie library buildings that have been converted to bed and breakfasts. The Library Hall Bed and Breakfast in Ladysmith, Wisconsin is one of only two such arrangements that I am aware of in the United States. The other is in Sterling, Colorado. Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Ladysmith and see the Library Hall Bed and Breakfast and have included some photos above.
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.
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.
Any library building that is older than fifty years is considered to be historic. Some historic library buildings continue to serve as libraries usually with additions. Others are razed so the lot they stand on can be used for a new library or for another use. Still others survive as buildings but are used for other purposes. One of the more positive alternative purposes for these buildings is to serve as a local history museum. Historical societies realize the importance of preserving historic buildings and they make them accessible to the public. There are several of these in Wisconsin. The Carnegie library building in Darlington which is pictured on the envelope above now serves as the home of the Lafayette County Historical Society Museum. The Antigo Carnegie library building shown on the postcard below serves as the home to the Langlade Historical Society. Other historic library buildings occupied by museums that I am aware of include those in Beaver Dam, Racine, Waupaca, Waupun, and Wisconsin Rapids. A down side to these buildings is that they are often not fully accessible to those with disabilities.
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.
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.
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.