Carnegie Library

I love the smell of a library, and one of my first memories of that aroma was from visiting the Carnegie Public Library in Sidney, Nebraska. The high ceiling, the towering book cases, and the quiet all impressed my eight year-old self, although I’m sure that the ceilings won’t be nearly as high as I remember should I return. It’s been over fifty years since I’ve been in that building, and I’ve noticed that things have shrunk over time. Even mountains aren’t as high as they were in my youth.

Carnegie’s foundation financed not only the Sidney library, but libraries all over the country. Colorado alone had 35 libraries financed at least in part from these grants, and one of those was located in Rocky Ford, pictured above. The 1907 grant was for $10,000, and the building was completed in 1909. It obviously was a source of local pride. I found an image online of the library dated 1913. It was a postcard, and the “publisher” was the Fenton Drug Company, a local drug store. I haven’t included that image here for a couple of reasons: it had a very obvious halftone moiré, and it was watermarked, even though the original image is in the public domain. However, the only real changes from that image to mine are the addition of a telephone pole, a railing on the entry stairs, and the addition of the word “Museum” above the door.

I don’t know that the foundation specified any design constraints, but many of the Carnegie libraries look as though they were built from the same plans. There’s a look to a Carnegie library that can be spotted from a mile away. I was recently in Rocky Ford, attending to the sad duty of interring a Masonic brother, when I saw this building, and even before I saw the word “Carnegie” above the door I knew what I was seeing.

There’s a new library just in front of the old building, a modern one story structure, but the old structure was too good to demolish. It has a new life as a museum. As the importance of libraries declines–a sad, sad trend–I wonder if the new anonymous structure, without embellishment or distinction, would survive as well as the century old temple.

Maybe there is something to be said about us antiques, buildings or people.



This entry was posted in Opinion, Photography.

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