Friday, March 17, 2017

A Carnegie in The Dalles

Collecting Carnegie Libraries
The Dalles, Oregon

A classical-style brick building.  Beautiful paintings.  A charming historic neighborhood.  A cat curled up in a wing chair.  Hand-crafted jewelry.  Watercolors and woven scarves.  Now I remember why I collect Carnegie Libraries. It's been awhile.  I sought them out while living in California, but this solid gem of a building in the heart of The Dalles is my first one in Oregon.

Of the 1,679 public library buildings funded by Andrew Carnegie between 1883 and 1929, 31 of them were in Oregon.  Only 11 of them are still libraries.  And, alas, several have been torn down.  In my travels, I have visited many that are now art galleries--such is the case with this one.

Built in 1910, it served the community as a library until 1966, when a larger, more modern one was built down the street.  In 1967 the Dalles Art Club received permission from the city council to use the vacant building as a venue to show and sell their art and to also hold art classes.  It has been going strong ever since.
Although, yes, I know Andrew Carnegie was a ruthless robber barren, I can't help but have great admiration for what he did later in life.  Once he sold his company to J. P. Morgan, philanthropy became an obsession.  Not only did he build concert halls and libraries, but he devoted his remaining years to world peace.  That this self-proclaimed pacifist should make millions from manufacturing steel that ultimately enabled the military industrial complex to grow is one of history's most ironic twists.  The realization that he was sending millions of men to their death sent him down a spiral of depression, fear and regret.  He drove himself hard to prevent World War I, and when he failed, he literally collapsed, fell silent and died a broken and tormented man.  The very moving biopic Andrew Carnegie Rags to Riches Power to Peace is an excellent account of his remarkable life.

He believed in education, valued community and understood the benefits of exposure to fine arts.  In his article, "The Gospel of Wealth" he urged the rich to give away their wealth after accumulating it.  Remarkable!  I think it should be required reading for every single one of the men and women in You Know Who's Cabinet of Millionaires.  Sigh.
I begin once again traveling the country in search of Carnegie Libraries.  To seek inspiration.  To enjoy.  To remember that goodness and generosity exists.  And will someday prevail.

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