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, according to extant evidence.

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 - Q

Oak Park

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

Main Library: Fiscal Outreach

Architect Rendition 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 familiar with this library during its exile to an abandoned auto parts store, although I had visited the 1964 building once previously to its 2002 demolition.
Two of the branches look as if they could have been Carnegie buildings.

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.

Maze Branch

Oak Park Public Library

It is likely that this is the first, rented building at 429 Harrison Street, among many apartments. The branch dwelt there from 1915-1936. I believe this to have been demolished for the building of I-290.

The card's caption is not particularly helpful, but I've seen worse.

Ottawa (Reddick's Library)

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


Main Peoria Library 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.
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.

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

Springer-Burklund, Peoria, IL. Plastichrome by 

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 (L) Tinted, vertical card.
(R) Zim brand card, for Bolander's 5¢ & 10¢ Store.
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 (L) From Tribune Printing.
(R) E.C. Kropp knockoff of Curt Teich's Blue Sky postcard line.
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.


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.


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).

Quincy, IL Public Library Quincy, IL Public Library Quincy, IL Public Library Quincy, IL Public Library

(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 a purpose.
(CL) Private Mailing Card, authorized May 15, 1898.
(CR) White brand photo card, likely dating from the 1940s.
(R) Published for the S.H. Knox & Co., mailed in 1909.

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 - 2014 Judy Aulik
Updated 10 October 2014.
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