According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, on this day in 1903 construction began on the Janesville Public Library. Andrew Carnegie had approved a grant of $30,000 on March 1, 1901 to assist with the contruction of the library. It was one of seven communities in Wisconsin to receive Carnegie grants in that same year. In addition to the grant from Carnegie,
Volume I of the History of Winnegago County Wisconsin by Publius V. Lawson (C. F. Cooper & Co., Chicago, 1908, page 474) recounts the story of how Neenah, Wisconsin got its Carnegie Library.
“Robert Shiells [former president of Neenah’s subscription library] still kept up his interest in the work [of the library] and one day in 1904 wrote a letter to Andrew Carnegie suggesting that he furnish the funds for a library building in Neenah.
T. B. Scott, for whom the T. B. Scott Free Library in Merrill is named, willed the City of Merrill $10,000 in 1886 to found a free public library. In a special election in 1889, 120 years ago, residents voted to establish the public library. In 1909, 100 years ago, Merrill received a grant of $17,500 from Andrew Carnegie for a new library building.
The Wisconsin Library Memorabilia exhibit is on display in the months of February and March at the South Milwaukee Public Library as part of their 110th anniversary celebration. South Milwaukee received a $15,000 grant on September 29, 1915 from Andrew Carnegie for a new public library building. That building was razed in 1965.
Finding alternative uses for Carnegie library buildings that have been vacated for newer and more functional facilities can be a challenge. The old Carnegie library in Ladysmith, Wisconsin was transformed into a very unusual alternative purpose. It is now the Carnegie Hall Bed & Breakfast. In a Google search, I was only able to find a couple of similar uses in the nation.
The postcard on the masthead for the WLHC website shows the building which Andrew Carnegie helped fund for Superior, Wisconsin. Beth Carpenter, the designer of the WLHC website, picked the postcard for the masthead, but I heartedly approve. I like it because it shows people around the library and a very neat vintage automobile that helps date the card.
The City of Stoughton, Wisconsin has the distinction of having preserved two historic library buildings. An elaborate multi-purpose building which housed the public library in the basement was completed in 1901. The stone signage on the building says “City Hall 1901 Library”. In addition to the City Hall and Library, the building contained a large city auditorium which became the City Hall Opera House.
On Wednesday, October 15, 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, Terrie Goren, Director of the Madison Public Library Foundation, will be presenting the video “The History of the Madison Public Library”, written and narrated by local author and historian Stuart Levitan. This event is a part of the Wisconsin Book Festival.
The Madison Public Library also has one of the most comprehensive histories on the web that I’ve seen.
Andrew Carnegie is noted for his gifts for the construction of public library buildings. However, he also gave gifts to help build 108 academic libraries in the United States. In addition to the Carnegie grants for 63 public library buildings in Wisconsin, there were two academic institutions that received Carnegie grants for library buildings – Beloit College and Lawrence University.