Original St. Charles library building named historical landmark

  • As construction continues on the St. Charles Public Library, the original building was recently declared a historic landmark by the city.

      As construction continues on the St. Charles Public Library, the original building was recently declared a historic landmark by the city. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • This postcard circa 1915 shows the St. Charles Public Library.

    This postcard circa 1915 shows the St. Charles Public Library. Courtesy of St. Charles Public Library

 
 
Updated 9/8/2020 6:47 PM

The site of the original St. Charles Public Library building has undergone quite a transformation through the years.

From being a city dump to an ice rink, the site at the corner of Main Street and 5th Avenue required financing from steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to eventually become the brick and pillared structure residents have utilized since it first opened in 1908.

 

More than a century later, the original Carnegie library building has been granted historical landmark status by the city of St. Charles after library officials filed the applications and worked closely with the St. Charles Historic Preservation Commission. The landmark status became official at the Aug. 17 city council meeting.

"We were very excited with the Carnegie building achieving that designation," said St. Charles Public Library Executive Director Edith Craig.

The building houses a local history collection, as well as study areas, conference rooms and an art gallery.

The St. Charles Public Library, which is within the city's historic district, is actually enjoying the best of both worlds. While the landmark designation is an honor, the library facility next to the Carnegie building is undergoing an $18.6 million expansion and renovation.

Because of the extensive construction that began in April, the library relocated to the former Haines Middle School on South 9th Street until the renovation is scheduled to be completed next summer. It's open to the public by appointment only due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Craig said the Carnegie building also is undergoing a restoration, with tuckpointing and work on the windows. The front doors will be getting new glass to give the building a similar look to the 1908 facade.

Historic Preservation Commission member Tom Pretz appreciates the care being put into the Carnegie building, not just today but through the decades.

"You've got tens of thousands of cars that drive by and see it at the eastern gateway of the downtown area, so it's a very prominent area," Pretz said. "It's important that it stays well-maintained. If you look at the architecture of the Carnegie portion, it's been preserved and the materials are original and well-maintained. It's in its original form and still being protected, even today with the new addition."

Of course, the $18.6 million expansion wouldn't have been possible without that original $12,500 from Carnegie. Merging the two visions is one reason why Craig said they plan to unveil the plaque commemorating the landmark status on the same day the new library has its grand opening.

"We're looking forward to it," she said. "There are a lot of exciting things happening right now."

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