Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Carnegie Charm

A few weeks ago, while on vacation, I happened upon an old Carnegie library in Petoskey, Michigan.

There is something so familiar and comforting about these architectural gems of the past - stalwart reminders of an earlier generation.  I can still remember, as a child, driving somewhere with my family, when I first heard the term. My Dad had pointed out a "Carnegie Library" and I was intrigued and eager to hear more. I was also thrilled to learn that our own "Old Library" was, itself, a gift from this generous philanthropist.

By the turn of the twentieth century, Andrew Carnegie was a very wealthy industrial baron who had made his fortune in the steel industry. Being a strong believer in the value of education, he sought a suitable recipient for his legacy, and found it in the public library system. Working in partnership with communities, Carnegie established the Carnegie Library Building Grant. 2500 libraries, worldwide, were assisted by the Carnegie Foundation; 125 such buildings in Canada.

I have very vivid memories of being taken to my town's Carnegie library, by my older cousin, to sign up for my first library card. I was perhaps about five years old. I had big, stone steps to climb in order to gain entrance to this magical building. Once inside, adult patrons continued up another flight of stairs to the Adult Department; while younger visitors descended downstairs to the Children's Department. I remember taking such care to print my name in a neat and legible hand. Some things never change - I still list perfect penmanship as a must-have quality.

Equally as impressive as the old Petoskey Library, was the town's new library directly across the street. I was moved by the architectural detailing and the sense of history that was captured.

Entrance to the Children's Department

And of course, I was taken by the Hemingway connection to a "local" Ontario newspaper.

Daughter1, Daughter2, and OnlySon were frequent visitors of another Carnegie library when we lived in a beach town along the shores of Lake Huron. I was fortunate to visit that library again this summer. It is still operating as the public library, and never looked better. Such wonderful memories.


Do you have memories or photos of a Carnegie Library? I would love you to share them.

All photos my own

Thank you to the following wikispace for excellent background information:


  1. Love Carnegie libraries! Your recollection of going downstairs to the Children's Department with the Adult Department upstairs reminded me of the same layout at the Carnegie library in Port Elgin. I think I read every book offered in the children's department, checking out the beautifully illustrated A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett multiple times.

    1. You did read every book in the children's dept. That's why we had to keep moving - to find more books:)


I would love to hear your story!