Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America

(Top) Bradley Polytechnical Institute (Bottom) Peoria Public Library

Continued from Non-Carnegie Libraries of Illinois, G - N.

The card on the left is part of an interesting series of Peoria landmarks. Whether the black trim was intended to make these cards look like strips of film is not known to me.

Occasionally, Illinois communities leapt to the challenge before Andrew Carnegie hit the scene.

In some cases (William Reddick of Ottawa), local citizens led the way. Pet Milk money funded Highland's Louis Latzer Memorial Library. The heirs of Gail Borden used their 'milk money' to found Elgin's library, although Borden did not have a personal connection with the city. In the same era as the Carnegie grants, much of James L. Nichols' business and printing profits were bequeathed to help build Naperville's original library building. Otherwise, Illinois industry did little to directly fund the state's public libraries.

Some of these cards, however, postdate the grant program, or picture buildings that replaced Carnegie buildings (Highland Park).

Non-Carnegie Libraries in Illinois
Cities O - Z

 Oak Park

Oak Park Public Library and Congregational Church Scoville Institute Oak Park Public Library

(L) Built in 1888, according to an Oak Park village history site. Demolished ca. 1961, according to the library's site.
(R) Scoville Institute and Oak Park Public Library on a J.O. Stoll linen finish card printed by Curt Teich. This appears to date from the WWII era.

Architect Rendition Reverse

Obverse and reverse of a card distributed by the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library, and endorsed by a board member. The front still shows the old church present in the earlier cards. The reverse reads:

A modern Cultural Center for 'The World's Largest Village'
Special features: Space for three times the number of books available in the old building; ground level entrance with no interior stairs to climb; Adult Lounge and Browsing area; 100 seats for reading and study; enlarged Children's Room; Story Hour Room; 236 seat meeting room for use of civic groups, film showings and book talks; Scoville Memorial Meeting Room; record listening; air conditioning. Cost, including improvements at Maze Branch and Dole Branch: $1,395,000. Cost to the average home owner: $3.90 per year for 20 years.
Oak Park Public Library

I grew to know this library during its exile to an abandoned auto parts store, although I had visited the 1964 building once previously.
Two of the branches look as if they could have been Carnegie buildings.

(Lower right) Built 1964, demolished 2002.

The newest (post-1966) card was a local production, by Michael West Photography. It was a project of the Tourism Committee of the Oak Park - River Forest Chamber of Commerce.

 Ottawa (Reddick's Library)

Reddick's Library Reddick's Library

Built 1860; left to the city of Ottawa in 1885 (along with a tidy endowment); replaced in 1975.
The current library is not especially beautiful, but it looks more than adequate for the purpose.
As the Historic Reddick Mansion, this Italianate building is open to the public.

When you worry about immigration, keep the story of William Reddick in mind.

(L) E.C. Kropp card, never mailed.
(R) Tinted card with abnormally wide white border.


Main Peoria Library Main Peoria Library

As an institution, the Peoria Public Library is more than 130 years old.
One of the Peoria branch libraries, Lincoln, is a Carnegie building, but this 1897 library was not.

Many postcards exist of the 1897 building; at least two are known of the 1967 building.
(L) Card mailed in 1910.
(R) International Postal Card dates from late 1907.

Springer-Burklund, Peoria, IL. Plastichrome by 

An area blog, Get the Word, calls PPL 'Peoria's intellectual safety net,' a phrase I wish I'd coined.

Its main location, shown at right, was built in 1967, replacing the rather imposing building shown above.
Peoria took a different approach than did Minneapolis and Madison with its mid-century main location, renovating rather than demolishing. Renovations were complete in mid-2011, and appear to have solved the light and space issues of the 1967 version. The addition, also in Mid-century Modern style, looks as if it's been there from the start--a difficult architectural feat to pull off.

My favorite branch, Lakeview, is now under renovation.


Pontiac (IL) Public Library Pontiac (IL) Public Library

This is a rather stiff Romanesque rendition. It reminds me of the city building where the first Dundee Township (IL) library was housed. To give Pontiac credit, it was a dedicated library building.

There is a complete history provided on the Pontiac Public Library's web page. I'll give the highlights: built in 1894; replaced in 1952 (and again in 1995--into another old Sears building). Its current status is unknown to me.

What's the deal in the Midwest, anyway, about reusing old Sears stores (Decatur, IL; Anderson, IN)? Were they that attractive? Or just attractive corporate tax writeoffs?

 Princeton (Matson Public Library)

Princeton, IL Public Library Princeton, IL Public Library

Established, 1890.
Built in 1912 by Patton & Miller, noted library architects. Replaced, 2007, spurred by ADA compliance complaints, per Wikipedia. It's still standing, but with accessibility issues, I don't know its current function.

Righthand card is an E.C. Kropp knockoff of Curt Teich's Blue Sky postcard line.


Prophetstown, IL Public Library

Still in use as the Henry C. Adams Memorial Library.

Built in 1929: remodeled in 2002. It bears a close resemblance to some of the last Carnegie-funded libraries.

So, you may ask, what was Mr. Adams' claim to fame?
He invented the self-sharpening reel lawnmower. For those of you who mow the lawn on early weekend mornings, please buy one of Henry's inventions.


Quincy, IL Public Library Quincy, IL Public Library

Formerly located at 4th and Main Sts.
Currently located at 526 Jersey St. In addition, Quincy has a single branch library.

The library's web site is nice, but lacks any history whatsoever about any of the buildings.
I did discover that the original building, built in 1889, now houses the Gardner Museum of Architecture; and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (and I dearly want to visit it).

(L) The card has no publisher information, has an entire back, and was mailed in 1905. At least the flaw from the misstruck postmark serves an use.
(R) Published for the S.H. Knox & Co., mailed in 1909.


Rantoul, IL Public Library

From the same architectural style family as Woodstock (below) and the current Ripon, WI library.

From the Curt Teich postcard:

This municipally owned Rantoul Public Library was constructed in 1951 and an addition built in 1960. The library has approximately 25,000 books and maintains a collection of up-to-date reading and reference materials. A children's library is also included.

Surprisingly, it was replaced in 2000.


Riverside, IL Public Library

Still in use, as was, as is.

Built in 1931. Named as an Illinois Historic Structure in 1972, according to the library's history timeline.

Very sharp card from Cunningham Photo of Danville. In case you were wondering what the plaque reads, it says:

There is no past so long as books
Shall like Bulwer Lytton

I'm not so sure of that last part.

 Rock Island

Rock Island, IL Public Library Rock Island, IL Public Library

This information comes from the Geac Computer Corporation site, as cached by Google. Construction of this building began in 1902. The library's roots date from before the Civil War.

The righthand postcard has almost as interesting a provenance. The card itself was printed by the Rock Island Post Card Co. Evidently, many such cards were purchased by the Johnson Service Company, commonly thought of as Johnson Controls, and sent as advertisements. Postmarked in 1910, its 1 cent stamp has a 'J S Co' perfin monogram, which was intended to keep the employees' mitts off the postage supply.

A recent book, Heart of The Community: The Libraries We Love, published by Berkshire Publishing Group, features this main library--and the post card on the right.
It also furnishes this quote from Andrew Carnegie:

Any town that has Frederick Weyerhauser need not ask a library from me.

Notable, but not exactly quotable.


Roseville, IL Public Library Roseville, IL Public Library

Not much astonished me while researching this website, but discovering that this library is still in active use did. It's now a branch of the Warren County Library System, based in Monmouth.

No, there is no connection with the Warren card below.

I have no other history at this point, but the RPPC was mailed in 1909, and the Rock Island Post Card Co. card was mailed in 1911.
It's pretty certain that the same photo was used for both.


Bryan-Bennet Library, Salem, IL Bryan-Bennet Library, Salem, IL

Built 1909. Altered due to storm damage in 1938. Replaced in 1985.

This is a really strange pair of cards. The first can also be seen on the Library's website. I don't know if the remainder (R) still stands.


Nonexistent library

Route 66 town.

Architect Jack Gockel's rendering of the City Hall--Public Library Complex.
The card is by CustomArt of Cedar Rapids, and dates to sometime after 1962.
I can't tell if the library actually looks like this, because it has no website. The city's website isn't exactly bedecked with pictures, either.

Today, the town's web site confirms that the library is within the City Hall.


Tiskilwa, IL Library

Still in use, but someone stuck a clock tower above the entrance. Now it looks even more like a school.

Between the tinted sky and the font used to label the card, I believe it was produced by C.U. Williams. It was mailed in 1910.

 Urbana (Samuel T. Busey Memorial Library)

Urbana, IL Library

Now known as the Urbana Free Library.

According to the library's history page, it doesn't seem as if UFL was ever officially known by the name found on this postcard. When I patronized this library, it had undergone its first major renovation and was still quite crowded. However, the Busey reading room was very comfortable, and efficiently air conditioned, and that's all I really looked for during a ferocious central Illinois summer.

 Villa Park

Villa Park, IL storefront library

This card dates from either 1928 or 1929. The street sign reads 'W. Central Blvd.'
Why is this small detail so crucial? According to the library's history page:

In August 1928, with 400 books, the Villa Park Woman's Club opened the Villa Park Library in one room of the J.C. Sterett real estate office at 317 S. Ardmore, the northeast corner of Ardmore and Central.
...By 1929, it was apparent that more room was needed. The library moved into a twenty-five by thirty-two-foot room on the second floor of the new Villa Park Village Hall.

Therefore, this photograph was taken during a very small window of time.


Washington, IL Library

Apparently replaced. L.L. Cook photo card.


Watseka, IL Library Watseka, IL Library


No history on the library's site, but this building has been replaced.

(L) The card was mailed in 1916, but has an unevenly divided back.
(R) An even older card has an entire back.

 West Dundee

W. Dundee City Hall with library

Along with Carpentersville, merged to form the Dundee Township Public Library District in 1959.

Yes, I know, this card features the city hall. It did house the library at one point in time. I remember it, and I remember a hellacious number of steps for a youngster.
Or an oldster.

In 1962, the library collection moved to an 1870s house on West Main Street (IL-72). That soon required an annex, which housed the non-fiction collection. In turn, both were demolished in the 1970s to make way for a bank.


Adams Memorial Library Adams Memorial Library

Information came from the Wheaton Public Library website's history page. This library was built in 1891 as the Adams Memorial Library and was superceded in 1965. The Adams building still stands and is today used as the DuPage County Historical Museum. It has been restored and maintained with tender loving care.

Unfortunately, there's not much in it, especially when compared with McHenry County's Historical Museum in Union, Illinois.

 White Hall

White Hall, IL library

Caption: Public Library, Whiteside Park, White Hall, Ill.

Built in 1922 as the Whiteside-Griswold Memorial Library.
It is still in use as the White Hall Township Public Library.

The card was never mailed and has no manufacturer's identification. It has a feel about it from the late '30s or early '40s.

No, the strobing scan artifacts is not the feeling.


Woodstock Opera House Woodstock, IL library

Woodstock Public Library now has its own site--plus, history!

(L) I had never known that the famous Opera House had housed the library (1891-1959), but Curt Teich left in a detail at the base of the tower on the 1951 linen finish card. If you were wondering, the store at right was an A & P.
(R) Card postmarked 1966.
Photo credit to Don Peasley: card by Dexter Press of West Nyack, New York.

Info from card:

Located in a beautiful, restful setting, the Woodstock Public Library is an outstanding asset to the city of nearly 10,000 citizens. Founded in 1880, the library today has 20,000 volumes. It moved into this building in 1959, and features many periodicals, a reading room, and children's department.

Pretty as it is, it shares that Lutheran church architectural flavor with the current Ripon, WI library. It has been expanded in 1966 and in 1987.

Flickr photostream.
Great job, guys!


Zion's New Memorial Library

Not to be confused with Mt. Zion Public Library.
The card reverse calls it Zion's New Memorial Library, but today, it's the Zion-Benton Public Library.

A person could go broke collecting cards of this community, originally founded as part of a religious movement. I had a difficult time finding this Zion Publishing card, mailed 1969, amidst the older city scenes.


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That obligatory disclaimer

All text is under copyright by the author. Cards are presented for scholarly study: most are significantly older than 1928. You may link, and even deep-link to its pages, but you may not claim any part as your own nor link to individual images.

©2003 - 2013 Judy Aulik

Updated 13 June 2013.

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