St. Charles Public Library

1 South Sixth Avenue     (View on Map)

Image credit: St. Charles Public Library

Prior to the construction of the library building, the St. Charles Public Library existed in several different locations. Established by Miss Jenny Lewis in 1888, the first library opened on east Main Street in the former office of Judge Barry. For two dollars a year patrons could borrow books. This subscription library lasted for 17 years. The St. Charles Library Association was established in 1889.

In 1906, the township voted to build a public library. The Board of Directors wrote a letter to Andrew Carnegie at this time asking for financial assistance. Officials then bought land at the corner of 5th and Main Street on the east side of the city to build the new library. The classical revival structure, designed by Rogers & Woodyatt, was built largely due to the money Andrew Carnegie provided. The location of this parcel, which had served as a city refuse dump and favorite ice skating spot for east side residents, brought complaints from those living on the west end of town.

Image credit: St. Charles Public Library

With the award of the Carnegie grant, construction began on the new library in December 1906. The total cost of the building was $15,000. Carnegie gave $12,500, leaving the city to come up with the rest.   Upon completion in December 1908, the library, which contained over 2,000 books, had only one librarian, Miss Mary Stewart. Miss Stewart remained the sole librarian until 1929.

By the 1930s, the library saw its first expansion and improvement. In 1933, the library gained a mezzanine and turned the basement into a children's room. The children's room was completed as part of a Civil Works Administration program that hired unskilled workers to build and repair public works and public buildings. An addition in 1964 brought all of the departments up to the main floor. The Youth Services Department moved downstairs in 1973, allowing for expansion of the adult area. At this time, the original Carnegie Library came to be used as offices and storage. A 1989 remodeling of the oldest portions of the building returned the Carnegie Library to public use. Today it houses business and genealogy information. Much of the furniture found in the room is original to the 1908 structure.

In 1998, after serving as storage for approximately fifty years, the upper level of the Carnegie Building reopened. Following restoration which began in 1996, the Carnegie Community Room now sports replicated original decor and provides a delightful locale for recitals, meetings, or other cultural events.

Image credit: St. Charles Public Library

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Image credit: St. Charles Public Library