Carnegie Libraries in Illinois

Edwardsville PL with vignette of Andrew Carnegie

Part of Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America.
Illinois communities tended to know a good thing when they saw it: hence, many accepted Carnegie funding. The 105 state Carnegie grant total does not include college libraries (North Central College, Naperville; Monmouth College, Galesburg).

As I approach finding cards of all the cities, pages are divided into:
A - D,
E - G,
H - M,
N - R, and
S - Z.
Rockford has its own page.


Edwardsville Public Library Edwardsville Public Library

The web site is a little different. However, it's quite easy to navigate.
Its history page is bereft of pictures, but is quite well written by authors Amy Anson, Kevin Becker, and Amanda Endicott.
To summarize, the 1903 Carnegie building first needed renovation in the 1950s. During this period, a 1956 fire essentially gutted the building. It reopened in 1957. 1964 saw an addition, as did 1989.

(L) Curt Teich American-Art Blue-sky card.
(R) The early C.T. American Art card was mailed in 1924.

 El Paso

El Paso, IL Carnegie Library El Paso, IL Carnegie Library

I adore this little fairy castle of a Carnegie Library.

Card produced by C.U. Williams, Photoette, Bloomington, Ill. and mailed in 1910. See a more recent picture on the city's web site.
See a more attractive vintage post card on the library's web site.
Incidentally, El Paso was the last Illinois community to adopt direct dial telephones.

El Paso, IL Carnegie Library

This Souvenir of El Paso, Illinois offers some extra information:

El Paso Free Public Library--Donated by Andrew Carnegie.
Dedicated February 22, 1907.

The card was mailed soon after; postmarked on May 29th of the same year.


Evanston, IL Carnegie library Evanston, IL Carnegie library

1907 - 1975

According to Evanston Public Library Lore on its web site, a $50,000 Carnegie grant built this building.

What they don't tell you is that it took many years of wrangling to get it done. In 1903, they got one grant. A 1906 grant request was turned down. The building was opened in 1907. The grant was renewed in 1914, and more construction took place in 1915. (Here, the Bials are unclear. I bet there are some missing EPL records.) After all that hassle, they moved in 1960.

Evanston, IL Carnegie library Evanston, IL Carnegie library

(L, above) Pioneer card from unknown publisher.
(R, above) V.O. Hammon tinted postcard.

(L) Another V.O. Hammon card, mailed in 1917.
(R) RPPC found in a box of random buildings. This is a library building I recognized straight off.


Farmington, IL Carnegie library Farmington, IL Carnegie library

1906 grant: still in use, but with altered windows.

I seem to remember this building from the late 1970s. Even then, it needed a little TLC for its curb appeal.

(L) A.A. Vandervoort postcard, locally produced.
(R) W.C. Pine Co. card with strange white blotch above the steps, and an unusual typescript caption.


Flora, IL Carnegie library Flora, IL Carnegie library

1903 - 1990

This is the only Illinois Carnegie library building I know of which was condemned.
On their recently upgraded web site, Flora Public Library titles this page, 'A Brief History of the Flora Public Library.'

Read the rules section. I like 7 - 10 the best.


1901 Carnegie grant. Replaced in 2004. Still in limbo, but there has been debate about reusing the Carnegie building as the city hall. The library's featured photo of the new building looks like Ed Ruscha had a hand in it.

Freeport, IL Carnegie library Freeport, IL Carnegie library Freeport, IL Carnegie library
John Cook, Freeport historian, lists libraries built by Patton and Miller, including Carnegie Libraries in Belvidere (Ida Public), Polo (Buffalo Twp.), Freeport, and Warren. The Freeport Library was the oldest Carnegie library still in use in Illinois at the time it was replaced.
Freeport, IL Carnegie library The German card (R) appears to have been made by the same printer who published the Decatur card and several others on these pages. Freeport, IL Carnegie library
Freeport, IL Carnegie library (R) 'We are very proud of our library'
It's not that I'm as proud of your library: there seem to be an inordinate number of different cards of it about.
Freeport, IL Carnegie library
Freeport, IL Carnegie Library Color-View brand Dexter Press card, printed in 1962.

 Fulton (Schmaling Memorial Library)

Fulton, IL Carnegie library Fulton, IL Carnegie library

Dr. Hannah Nichols Schmaling served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Whiteside County Medical Society, donated the Library's land, and endowed it with the funds that enabled the acquisition of the 1908 Carnegie grant. It opened in 1909, and is still in use.
Full history on the library's site.

(L) Pretty card with tinted sky. It even bears the address: 10th Ave. and 5th St., Fulton, Ill.
(R) Lovely card in a vertical format.

Fulton, IL Carnegie library

(L, below) What an fulminatingly ugly card!
Worse yet, A.D. Mitchell used it to advertise his second-rate cards:

A.D. Mitchell & Son
Fulton, Illinois

Have the largest and most up-to-date line in the city. Local views, birthday greetings, etc. Colored cards like this one - Main Street, School, Library and Bridge - each (one) ............1¢

(R, below) I believe that this card was commissioned by the library itself, because of the poem inscribed on the reverse:

Fulton, IL Carnegie library
October Twenty seventh nineteen nine!
If there's nothing to the contrary,
The Fulton Public Library
Will set apart the given date,
Its building now to dedicate.
Among the books of value there
Will be a record beyond compare,
A gift book, naming each donation
And its giver in like notation
We need your name upon the sheet
To make the record more complete.


Galena, IL Carnegie library Galena, IL Carnegie library

Federal-style adaptation of the Carnegie plan.

Library's site contains an excellently written history of its existence. I would gladly pay 10 cents for a catalogue of holdings!

Supposedly, the Peabody, Kansas Carnegie Library shared the same plans with this building, but it isn't an obvious relationship. Maybe fraternal, not identical twins?

Galena, IL Carnegie library Reading room of the Galena, IL Carnegie library

(L) No card attribution, but with an entire back, it dates between the 1905 grant and the 1907 demise of the entire back postcard.
(R) Tremendous interior scene by Curt Teich (C.T. Photochrom) for E.W. Kempter of Galena. Notice that it had gas lighting.*

Dibs on the square table next to the window.

Apparently the books were shelved according to color.

*Despite the fact that so many of these buildings did not have electricity early on, I don't know of any fires or explosions caused by gas.


Galesburg, IL Carnegie Library

Built 1901-2, the Galesburg Carnegie Library was lost to fire on May 9, 1958.
It's an Italianate building with some odd little portholes on the roofline.
The library's web site called the building Romanesque. I don't. You may. Moot point. It burnt. Frieze reads:


Faithfully reproduced as the card (L) below reads.

Galesburg, IL Carnegie Library Galesburg, IL Carnegie Library, and post office
(R) Suhling Co. of Chicago published this meh self-framed card.

(L) Blame the E.C. Kropp Co. for the bad spellings.
(R) Card dated Oct. 1908, but never mailed.
The city post office (the red brick building) is a bonus on the S.H. Knox postcard.


Galva, IL Carnegie Library Galva, IL Carnegie Library Galva, IL Carnegie Library Galva, IL Carnegie Library
Monochrome card featuring the original structure.
The 1929 addition seems to postdate this card.
C.R. Childs card, ca. 1907. Curt Teich postcard, restruck for Wm. Mc Meekin. Art View card, printed in Cambridge, Illinois.

1907 grant: 1909 dedication. Galva's Carnegie building has an interesting blend of styles, perhaps a combination of Tudor and Prairie (see also the Geneva card below) after expansion.

The library's site has a fairly thorough history.


Geneva, IL Carnegie Library

1907 grant: still in use.

Geneva, St. Charles, and Batavia essentially form a single community.
St. Charles' library was also a Carnegie building, albeit more of a 'typical' one. Geneva's was a very attractive Tudor-style limestone building. It looks a little like a ski lodge to me.


Gilman, IL Carnegie Library Gilman, IL Carnegie Library

One of Illinois' last grants: 1915. Replaced in 2005.

(L) Curt Teich 'Photo-finish' card. The code, 115289, does not seem to correlate with the known coding scheme published by the Lake County Forest Preserves' Curt Teich Postcard Archives. Probably not visible to the reader are the stained glass upper window panes.
(R) Curt Teich 'Blue-Sky' card, also coded 115289.

 Glen Ellyn

Glen Ellyn, IL Carnegie Library


Ca. 1925, 1961, and 1980 additions. I think Glen Ellyn really tried to save the Carnegie building, but by the 1950s, the handwriting was on the wall (and on the Library's web site history today). First the Library encouraged the cardholders to take home armloads of books, then another referendum was passed, then a citizen donated money for its reference room.
After all that remodeling and renovation, was it still a classic Carnegie building?

Photo postcard with a circled B on front, and DOPS in the stamp box.


Enlarged library photograph Grayville city buildings

1911 grant.

There are no reported postcards featuring only the Grayville Carnegie building. The enlargement on the left is about as good as it gets here. This card was mailed, to Canada, in 1913.

I haven't found any significant information about this building online, but it still includes 'Carnegie' in its name.
The library is part of the Shawnee Library System.

 Greenup Township (Cumberland County)

Multiview postcard of Greenup, IL Greenup, IL Library

(L) The library, resembling that of Adrian, Michigan, is in the upper right corner.
(R) An I. Stern tinted card, with photo attribution to R.W. Couzet, an evident typo.

Whether the library still exists in this building is the question. It's still referred to as the Greenup Carnegie Library on some sites, but the library's own web page shows a building without any of the frills shown on these cards. Maybe they were able to blandify the Carnegie building, but I don't know for certain.

The cards themselves might make an interesting story. Attributed to R.W. Conzet, Chemist, Conzet himself is featured on the view below the oval. He appears to have been involved with water analysis.


Greenville, IL Carnegie Library Brownette card by C.U. Williams of Bloomington

On the National Registry of Historic Places.

Similar to Fairbury's Dominy Library, and to Sycamore's and to Paxton's libraries.
A 1905 Carnegie grant made this building possible, and it appears from city and library websites that it hasn't been altered one bit. It contains the Bond Co. Historical Society and a noteable genealogical collection.
Obviously, microfilm is their friend.

 Illinois Carnegie Libraries Listed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency

At this point, the only way to see the non-linked libraries is to visit the pertinent IHPA site.


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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

Carnegie libraries divided on 30 January 2007.
Quartered and updated on 13 December 2008.
Last update: 16 November 2013.

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