Friday, June 30, 2017

The Port Angeles Carnegie

Collecting Carnegie Libraries
Port Angeles, Washington

As we drove down Lincoln Street in Port Angeles, on the way to our hotel, I saw this red brick beauty and commented, "I bet that's a Carnegie."

Sure enough, when we returned the next day to check it out, I was right.  In my search across the country for these historic buildings, I'm starting to recognize the architecture.  The neo-classical revival style was a popular design back in the early 20th century, especially for government buildings.

  This particular library was designed by Harold H. Ginnold from Seattle.  It's small, solid, and the details are pleasing to the eye.  It would get instant approval and serve the community well for its efficient, roomy space.  Perfect for stacks of books.
Indeed, this building served the community as a library for over 50 years.  It got a boxlike addition in the 60's, but thankfully was removed 30 years later and the architectural integrity of the original building is now intact.  It was turned into a museum for awhile, but when I went up to the door, I found this sign.  "The Museum at Carnegie has closed."

Alarm bells went off in my head.  I tried to stay calm.  It's just that I recently witnessed what had happened to our gorgeous (and I mean gorgeous) old Carnegie Library in Coffeyville, Kansas, the town I grew up in.  Once it lost its raison d'etre, it kept changing hands until now it is on the verge of collapse and will probably be razed.  I was so heart-broken that I couldn't even photograph the ruins.

These buildings are part of our national heritage.  Thousands of book-loving people all across the country submitted applications for grants from the Carnegie Foundation to build a library in their town. Many of them originated with women's reading groups just like this one.  The Port Angeles library was one of 43 that were built in the state of Washington.  It was opened in 1919.  

I do applaud the town for getting this building on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, so I'm hopeful it will be preserved.  I'm confident the people who work for the Natural Resources Department will take care of the building, but it saddens me that it is now closed to the public.  In my wanderings, I find that the Carnegies that are still being used by everyone in the community, are the Carnegies that still pulse with life.


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