Sunday, January 6, 2013

Andrew Carnegie and a Library Fire in Seattle

There was nothing like a fire to motivate Andrew Carnegie to donate money for a library building. On the morning of New Year's Day in 1901 the mansion that housed the Seattle Public Library burned resulting in the loss of 25,000 books. Prior to the fire there had been an unsuccessful attempt to get a grant from Andrew Carnegie for a new public library building. Five days after the fire (January 6, 1901, 112 years ago today) Carnegie agreed to give Seattle $200,000 for a new central library building. The fortuitous outcome of the fire led to speculation that City Librarian Charles Wesley Smith may have actually started the fire (source: Seattle's good fortune related to Andrew Carnegie didn't stop with a new central library, however.  In all, Carnegie provided grants totaling $430,000 for seven buildings in the City of Seattle. An additional Carnegie funded library building became a branch of the Seattle Public Library when the adjacent community of Ballard, Washington was annexed by Seattle. The central library funded by Carnegie which is shown on the postcard above was razed to make way for a new building that opened in 1960. That library has also been replaced with a magnificent new facility which opened in 2004. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund that building. I wrote a previous post about Carnegie and the Seattle Public Library. More about the history of the Seattle Public Library can be found HERE. More about the 44 Carnegie funded libraries in Washington State can be found HERE. See a previous post about Carnegie and a library fire in Chelsea, MA.

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