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 Texas : Architecture : Carnegie Libraries

The Carnegie Library in Texas

or 
Guilt is Good

by John Troesser
Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie

Photo Courtesy The Carnegie Center of Brazos Valley History

Perhaps the inspiration for the Horatio Alger rags to riches stories, Andrew Carnegie started as an immigrant bootblack and ended up one of the richest men in America.

He attributed his success to having had access to the library of Colonel James Anderson, a businessman in Allegheny, Pennsylvania who opened his library to factory boys in order to better themselves.

Mr. Carnegie dismissed his philanthropic generosity saying that the libraries only help those who help themselves.  This attitude also explains why he contributed nothing towards universities, since the class system of the time favored those who could get into college.
Conditions for construction funds were: the city would provide a suitable site, (in at least two cases Carnegie Libraries were built in cemeteries), and the city would provide money equal to one tenth of the grant annually for maintenance and books.  Although the name Carnegie is prominently displayed on nearly one third of the libraries built, this was never a prerequisite for a grant.

Of the 1689 Carnegie Libraries built, 32 were in Texas.  Of these, 13 remain with only 4 serving their original purpose.  While around the country Carnegie Libraries are being used for everything from dance studios to law offices, in Texas all serve civic functions.

Carnegie Libraries in Texas - Browse List >

Carnegie Library mural, Corsicana Texas
Corsicana Carnegie Library Mural painted by Brad Smith

Cities which no longer have these libraries are:

  • Abilene
  • Brownwood
  • Corsicana
  • Dallas
  • El Paso
  • Fort Worth
  • Greenville
  • Houston
  • Memphis
  • Pecos
  • Pittsburg
  • San Antonio
  • Sulphur Springs
  • Vernon
  • Waco
  • Winnsboro
  •  
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    This page last modified: March 1, 2010