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Posted on December 28, 2021 at 3:30 PM by Melissa Dalton
The Xenia Carnegie Library has been a fixture in the Xenia community for over a century. Last month, the old library was sold to a local business owner with plans to renovate the space and bring it back to life. This week, we would like to give a brief history of the Xenia Carnegie Library.
I’m sure everyone has heard of Carnegie libraries, but maybe some aren’t familiar with the history. Pennsylvania businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, believed that books and libraries were important and wanted to share his passion with others by offering grants to build libraries (Fig 1). In 1886, the first Carnegie library was commissioned in Alleghany, Pennsylvania. Many of the early libraries were constructed in his native PA, but he expanded his philanthropic endeavor throughout the nation.
Fig 1. Andrew Carnegie, 1913 (Courtesy Library of Congress)
Around 1899, the Carnegie foundation saw a huge increase in the request for grants, and many of these requests were made by the rising number of women’s organizations and clubs of the Progressive Era. In 1902, the Young Women’s Library Association in Xenia learned of the Carnegie’s library foundation, and applied for a grant (Fig 2). Diana Roberts and Louise Lackey, descendants of Silas Roberts, offered to sell a lot on the corner of East Church Street and Collier Street for a new library, and only requested payment of $500. The association received notification from James Bertram, the private secretary to Carnegie, that they would be granted $20,000 for the library.
Fig 2. Carnegie Library Bill Has Passed, Xenia Daily Gazette, 7 Apr 1902 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
Architect William Kauffman, also a nephew to Roberts and Lackey, donated his services to design the library. The plans were approved and the foundation work began in 1903. On July 22, 1904, a special ceremony was held for the laying of the cornerstone, along with a time capsule (Fig 3). The construction was completed in 1904, and in 1905, the Library Association was granted an additional $3500 for library furnishings.
Fig 3. Placing the Box in the Corner Stone, Xenia Daily Gazette, 22 Jul 1902 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
The Xenia Carnegie Library officially opened to the public on June 26, 1906 (Fig 4). Over the next two decades, the library system witnessed great growth, adding additional branches and a book mobile (Fig 5).
Fig 4. Xenia Carnegie Library, 1907 (Courtesy Ohio History Connection)
Fig 5. Substantial Gain Shown by Local Library Past Year, Xenia Evening Gazette, 19 Nov 1920 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
In 1974, the Library was damaged during the Xenia tornado, and required some repairs. By this time, it was clear that the current structure could no longer support the growth of the library (Fig 6). In 1978, the Xenia Carnegie Library closed its doors. In 1983, the building was sold to a private owner, with the intent to use it as a residence. However, it was sold back to Greene County. The Xenia Carnegie Library remained under County ownership until 2021, when the County transferred ownership to the City of Xenia.
Fig 6. Library Facilities are Antiquated, Outgrown, Xenia Daily Gazette, 27 May 1970 (NewspaperARCHIVE.com)
In November 2021, the property was sold to the owner of Sweets Boutique Bakery & Café of Xenia with the plan to renovate the building. The plans include a restaurant, events venue, and culinary center. According to a recent WHIO article, the new restaurant will serve brunch and lunch daily, the after-hours events venue will require events to end by 10pm, and the culinary center will offer cooking and decorating classes, as well as lectures on healthy cooking.
After sitting empty for roughly 40 years, the Xenia Carnegie Library will get a breath of new life, and we are excited to see the old building shine once again in Xenia.
Until Next Time.
Library of Congress
Ohio History Connection
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