Library Postcards: Civic Pride in a Lost America

Depot and Library, Beaver Dam, Wis.

The State of Wisconsin has had a different, Progressive philosophy towards funding its libraries. In short, every resident is entitled to a card. If you don't live within a district, you might wind up with two or more cards!

However, times are still tight as I make the 2014 revision. Your local library may be open fewer than 40 hours per week, and may not even be open every weekday.

Non-Carnegie Wisconsin Libraries
Cities A - M

Paper mill barons are among the early philanthropists that funded the first Wisconsin public libraries. Therefore, many of the non-Carnegie libraries appear in the Wisconsin River or Fox River valleys.


Appleton public library and city hall Appleton public library and city hall

Its precursors were a privately funded reading room and a Free Library Association.

(L) E.C. Kropp card.
(R) Building that also served as city hall (1900 - 1939), when the library took over the entire building. Remodeled in 1954; replaced in 1981.

History on the library's web page by Bonnie Poquette.

Appleton library interior

(R) Beautiful interior view by Souvenir Post Card, showing a reference desk, oak furniture, marble columns, and gasoliers. This was a totally irresistible card.

 Beaver Dam (Williams Free Library)

Williams Free Library, Beaver Dam, WI Williams Free Library, Beaver Dam, WI Williams Free Library, Beaver Dam, WI Night view of Williams Free Library, Beaver Dam, WI Library fountain
The Williams Free Library, designed by Walter Holbrook, was built in 1890 and remodeled in the 1950s. The postcards make the building look menacing, but it doesn't look that way at all in person. Even though it now serves as a museum, the building is maintained well, although the railroad car to its east is a little jarring.
Photo copyright by Judy Aulik, 2010

History on a Dodge County Historical Society website.

Still in use nearly a hundred years later, it is now superceded by the Beaver Dam Community Library, on 311 N. Spring Street.

(L) Postcard photographed from the northwest shows a glimpse of the railroad station.
(R) The photograph was taken by the author in 2010.
More postcards atop this page.

 Boscobel (Hildebrand Memorial Library)

City Hall and Public Library

Doesn't this combo look like a bank, especially with its hanging clock?

At one point, the Library's web site stated that this is a Claude and Starck building, dating from 1925. Of course, it went on to say it's a Carnegie Library.

The post card was mailed in 1932. If you could see the original, the building is located at the corner of E. Bluff St. and Wisconsin Ave. This is most certainly true.


City Hall and Public Library

RPPC, printed in reverse. The scan is flipped to compensate.

Eventually, this arrangement was replaced. At least the store names allowed me to identify the city, as the card was never mailed.


Cornell, WI City Hall and Library

Real Photo Card.
The Library has progressed from being part of the city hall, to taking over the 1928 city hall building.


Cudahy, WI library

In use 1952-2003.

Prior to 1937, Cudahy's library needs were served by Milwaukee Public Library.

The L.L. Cook photo postcard is also a local (Milwaukee) product.

 De Pere

De Pere, WI Library

Card by the Wayne Paper Box & Prtg. Corp., Fort Wayne, Ind. All that paper in Wisconsin, and they had to go to Indiana to get this card made?
Apparently now subsumed into the Brown County Library, as its Kress Family Branch. The fate of this building is unknown.

 Delavan (Aram Public Library)

Aram Public Library, Delavan, WI Aram Public Library, Delavan, WI

Courtesy of Larry T. Nix, I now know who James Aram was.
I do hope that the information about this 1907 building's design by Claude & Starck is correct. The source that I had used for that information had pegged this as a Carnegie building.


Memorial Library, Delavan, WI

Another L.L. Cook card, another mid-century modern library.
Replaced in 1988, and now serves as a police station.

 Evansville (Eager Free Library)

Eager Free Library Eager Free Library

Since 1977, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Evansville's Eager Free Library, built in 1908 by Claude & Starck, is still in vigorous use. An addition was made in 1995-6, per the web page 39WestMain.

(L) Card is postmarked 1909.
(R) Card published between 1908 and 1909.

 Fennimore (Dwight T. Parker Public Library)

Dwight Parker Public Library, 
Fennimore, WI

The city houses not only this library, but also the regional headquarters for the Southwest Library System. Unfortunately, I needed to get the scoop on the Claude & Starck building from the ever-useful Waymarking page.

It was built in 1924, and is considered Italianate, but retains some stylistic features of the previous decade. It is still in use without exterior modification.

The photo postcard is an L.L. Cook product, with exceptionally crisp detail.

 Fort Atkinson (Dwight Foster Public Library)

Dwight Foster Public Library, 
Ft. Atkinson, WI

Repeated failures to obtain Carnegie monies (and the encroaching end of the program) led the Fort Atkinsonians to build their own Library. By 1931, a new children's wing was needed.

Fire damaged the building in 1945, but another addition was not built until the early 1980s.

 Grand Rapids (T.B. Scott Free Library)

T.B. Scott Library, Grand Rapids, WI

Prior to 1920, Grand Rapids was the twin city to Centralia. Both now comprise Wisconsin Rapids.

This library's rules are actually displayed on the McMillan Library (Wisconsin Rapids) website.
One should have been 'Do not attempt to direct traffic from the belfry, no matter how tempted you are.' The intersection of First St. North and Baker St. must have been a dangerous place.

 Kenosha (Simmons Memorial Library)

Kenosha women

Follow the ladies walking in Library Park to Simmons Memorial Library.
They are featured on an early E.A. Bishop postcard lithographed in Germany.

The building was designed by Daniel Burnham in 1900, according to Kenosha Public Library's web site. Burnham also was heavily involved in Chicago's Columbian Exposition (1893 World's Fair), Chicago's city planning, and improving Washington, DC's design.
(Burnham Library of the Art Institute of Chicago was instituted by his sons.)

Still in use, although 3 other branches and Bookmobile service are needed to augment this flagship facility.

Simmons Public Library, Kenosha Simmons Public Library, Kenosha Simmons Public Library, Kenosha Simmons Public Library, Kenosha
1907 - 1909, by Brown Photo. 1907 card by Curt Teich. Used as a trade card by a
local jeweler/optometrist.
Hand colored.
Simmons Public Library, Kenosha Simmons Public Library, Kenosha
E.C. Kropp card from the early 1920s. A statue of Lincoln is included on this
1967 Curt Teich chrome card.

 LaCrosse (Washburn Public Library)

Washburn Public Library, LaCrosse Washburn Public Library, LaCrosse

1888 - 1967

Gothic Light

Building dates from the era of H.H. Richardson, but still managed to look light, airy, and welcoming. This original building was a donation by a former Wisconsin governor (per Nix).

LCPL's website is exceptionally well done, with histories on each branch and excellent photography.

 Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva Public Library Lake Geneva Public Library

Designed by James R. Dresser, who was taught by Frank Lloyd Wright.
(L) The fact that this library was built in 1954 places this card at the tail end of the Real Photo era.
(R) Attractive 'Plastichrome' card.

The library's website does a better job of showing how beautiful both the building and its setting are. Recently I ran across this library in person and was amazed. The Wright influence is obvious in the marriage of site and building.
I hope they don't screw it up in the planned expansion.

 Lake Mills (L.D. Fargo Library)

Lake Mills, WI Public Library Lake Mills, WI Public Library

An odd mixture of Carpenter Gothic and Richardson Romanesque architecture that the library's excellent site calls 'Neogothic,' this library looks welcoming, reminiscent of a gingerbread house.

It survived a 1980 fire, among other events in its 100+ year history. Many pictures are available on their web site, including ones of the fire's aftermath, and of the building's addition.


Lancaster, WI Public Library Lancaster, WI Public Library

The first library in Grant County.

(L) 1901-1957 location in the Carpenter Gothic home of George Ryland. Apparently demolished, from Google Earth view.
(R) Schreiner Memorial Library was built in 1957 and expanded in 1982. L.L. Cook card.

The current library building has both Prairie and Mid-Century Modern influence in its architecture. Combined with the wooded setting, it's strikingly attractive.

 Marinette (Stephenson Public Library)

Stephenson Public Library, Marinette Stephenson Public Library, Marinette Stephenson Public Library, Marinette Stephenson Public Library, Marinette
ca. 1905
Also shows Lovers' Lane.
ca. 1911ca. 1947 ca. 1908
Martha: 'My knowledge is located here.'
Stare at these a while, and you start getting a vaguely creepy feeling.
Stephenson Public Library, Marinette Stephenson Public Library, Marinette Stephenson Public Library, Marinette
These views must have been taken from a building kitty-corner across the intersection. (C) L.L. Cook chrome card, dated 1958.
(R) Poor Stephenson Library: playing second chair to the interstate bridge across the Menominee River leading into Menominee, Michigan.

It looks a lot friendlier on this page. Stephenson Public Library is now part of a Marinette County library consortium.


Marshfield Public Library Marshfield Public Library

A Yellowstone Trail community.

Many cards crop the city hall from the photo. These, however, show the impressive brick building.

(L) Glossy card, pre-WWI.
(R) Unusual monochrome linen E.C. Kropp card.The building to far left has been torn down for a parking lot.

Marshfield Public Library Marshfield Public Library

One of Marshfield Public Library's most unusual claims to fame is its Stierle Bird Collection. Not books about birds; the birds themselves.

(L) Bloom Bros. card.
(R) 1901 - 1960 building. It looks like a Carnegie building, but is not. Note the weird discrepancy between the windows on the left and the right.
The card is one of E.C. Kropp's better efforts. However, the flag is one of those rare 19 star varieties.

Marshfield Public Library

The building in the card on the left was built in 1960, and received an addition in 1985. Another may be pending.
When I visited Marshfield last, the streets and all the surroundings were torn up. What I did learn is that the new building is about 500 feet from the old, but on the cross street. The former library, along with the old city hall, is now apartments.

 Menasha (Elisha D. Smith Library)

Menasha Public Library Menasha Public Library

Menasha's library was founded in 1896, and the 1898 building featured on this card was replaced in 1969.

Nice website with a new history page.

Card printed in Germany, and published by E.A. Bishop of Racine, WI.


Main Street, Menonomie

Early view of Main Street from the Bloom Bros.
Across the street from the Library is the First National Bank and a barber pole. There appears to be a post office beyond the library: there is still a facility on Main Street.
Note that the Library lacks awnings.

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building Mabel Tainter Memorial Building

<--------------------------Awnings down.
     Awnings up.---------------------------->

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, built 1890: replaced 1986. The current, small building does have a lovely lake view. The little library has to serve the city, plus most of Dunn County.

(L) This is one of my favorite cards. Imposing, stern Richardson Romanesque facade implying great wisdom lies within. Then a happy retouch artist gave it candy striped awnings.
(R) 'One of the most efficient and elaborate libraries in the world is housed in this building.'

Mabel Tainter Memorial Building and Menomin Lake Mabel Tainter Memorial Building

(L) E.C. Kropp provides you an eagle-eye view of Menomin Lake. Mailed in 1943, it captures other interesting city buildings.
(R) Lots of nifty details in this Universal Photo Service postcard. I believe that the brown building in both of the newer cards is the post office.
Gee, it's a GTE phone booth by the corner of the tower.
All the cars that I can ID are GM products, the newest a '56 Chevy. How times have changed.

 Merrill (T.B. Scott Free Library)

Both the Carnegie building and Old City Hall have their own page, enlivened by 2010 photographs.

 Mineral Point

Photo postcard from 1952, if I read the license plates correctly.

Caption: Point Theatre & Municipal Building.

Library sector (Note the Free Public Library sign above the Chevrolet) still in use. So are the public restrooms of the municipal building, a very important feature when playing tourist in Mineral Point.


Founded in 1902: the building, which had contained City Hall and the Library, is still occupied by the Library.

This is another of those photo postcards in the style peculiar to northern Wisconsin. I still haven't been able to identify the studio.

 Monroe (Arabut Ludlow Memorial Library)

Ludlow library Ludlow library

You should visit the Monroe Public library site to see the new facility. I guess that's what happens when you convert a clinic to a library. To be fair, Lee and June Geiger bought Monroe clinic and donated the building to the school district. Sadly, the entire building is not only occupied by the library. School administration holds the third floor.
This school/library connection is more often seen in the Eastern US.

What's that? Can't find Monroe?

Monroe Clinic

Here's a ca. 1973 card (by L.L. Cook) to give you an idea of how it looked as the Monroe Clinic.
Less than impressed, aren't you?

Author's comments

To the best of my knowledge, the majority of these cards has reached the public domain by virtue of the postcards' age. I claim full copyright on the text, which may be used in citation only. Also, I claim copyright on the scans, although given their quality, you might wonder why. Most of the troublesome scans are of early works, not linen-finish cards.

If you have evidence that any of these cards are really of Carnegie libraries, please e-mail me at (first name)(at)roadmaps (dot) org.

© 2003 - 2014 Judy Aulik

Divided on 30 April 2008.
Updated 15 August 2014.
Wisconsin Cities N - Z.
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