Carnegie Library Development in California and the Architecture it Produced, 1899-1921

Purpose of the Project: Project by Lucy Deam Kortum ABSTRACT Between 1901 and 1921, 142 public library buildings and two academic library buildings were constructed in California with funds provided by nineteenth century industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Those buildings still standing, now all more than seventy years old, are symbols of their communities' participation in the public library movement, and of the role of the Carnegie philanthropy. They also demonstrate a progression of architectural styles, most notably the revival of classicism inspired by the 1893 World's Colombian Exhibition. A 1967 survey of Carnegie libraries throughout the United States revealed 103 Carnegies then extant in California. This project documents the social history and architecture or California Carnegies by means of their "multiple property" nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. Scope of the Project: To identify the extant buildings, and to place them in perspective, all of the California Carnegie buildings, whether or not still standing, were included tn the study. Documentation was also drawn from other studies or Carnegie libraries and from the histories or public library development, philanthropy, and civic architecture of the period. National Register multiple property nomination requires three main narrative sections: statement of historic context; discussion of associated property types, and summary of identification and evaluation methods. In revised form, they appear as chapters 1, 2, and 3 of this project. Also, attached are National Register nominations for ten Carnegies and, for each California Carnegie iv constructed, a separate report with description, history, and photograph. or photocopy or historic photo. Methodology: A survey form was devised and was sent to each Carnegie community. Information was sought about early community libraries as well as about the building. The form was brief to encourage its return, but supplementary information was encouraged, including newspaper articles and other documentation, and photographs. From the responses, cross-checked and augmented from a number of other sources, a data base was established which, in turn, provided the foundation for the analysis in chapters 1 and 2. Conclusion: Today, there are eighty-seven Carnegies in California, all notable buildings in their communities, often the town's only civic building or the period, sometimes its only extant civic building. Monumental in style if not in size, generally exhibiting a high level of craftsmanship, often located in the heart of the old town, they testify to the early community's pride in its library. The case can be made that by providing the library building, and by energizing a constituency to generate taxes and other funds for the library, the Carnegie program created a high level or popular and civic commitment to free public libraries that persists after more than half a century. Testimony to the esteem in which the buildings are held, and to the increasing effectiveness of the preservation movement in California, is the fact that no Carnegie has been demolished since 1978. While the majority still function as public libraries, others provide a variety of innovative public and private services. Their age, their unique public architecture, and their local and regional history, continue to focus attention on the extant Carnegie buildings, individually and as a group, and on the need for in depth study of these valuable examples of community history.