Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seattle and Andrew Carnegie

Seattle was one of the fortunate communites that received grants from Andrew Carnegie for its main public library building and multiple branches. 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. A history of the library on the Seattle Public Library website tells an interesting story of the Seattle-Carnegie relationship. After the mansion housing the library burned on January 2, 1901, Carnegie agreed almost immediately to donate $200,000 to build a new fireproof building. Carnegie required communities receiving grants to provide ongoing support for the library equal to ten percent of the grant. Seattle went well beyond the requirement and pledged $50,000 annually. In response to this Carnegie wrote "I like your pluck". Perhaps that is why another Carnegie grant of $105,000 was made in in 2010 Carnegie to fund three branch libraries. Additional branches were funded by Carnegie in 1914, 1915, and 1921. The 1921 branch library was the last one that was built in Seattle for more than three decades. In July of this year the Seattle Public Library will celebrate the centennial of the three branch libraries completed in 1910 (thanks to Paul Nelson for this information). The main 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. The Ballard Branch has now been repurposed as a restaurant called Carnegie's. A pictorial history of the Seattle Public Library can be found HERE.

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