Our Carnegie Library, like 1,679 other Carnegie Libraries in the United States, gets its name from Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie came to America from Scotland at the age of 13, and over the course of his life would become one of the richest men of his time. Making his fortune in the Steel Industry, Carnegie acknowledge education as the foundation of his success and wanted to share the opportunities he had through education with others across the country and overseas.
In total, Carnegie helped build over 2,500 libraries, and our library can proudly count itself among them. Although Carnegie was very generous in his funding of libraries and other philanthropic areas, he was still a businessman at heart, and as such, there were certain stipulations he required be met before he would build a library. The two major requirements were as follows: the land for the library had to be owned outright, there had to be measures in place to assure the financial stability of the library in the future. With requirements like these, it’s no wonder why his Free Library Application held questions about taxes, expenditures, and the like.
Tyler’s Carnegie Library was built in 1904 and served the public in this role until 1978 when the new library was built directly across the street. The 1904 library can boast quite a few fun historical facts:
- This building had the first running water in a downtown building! If you visit our building today you can still see the little washroom that was used!
- During World War I, Tyler’s Red Cross organization moved its operation from the local high school to the public meeting space located on the 2nd floor of our building. Visiting this room today, one can only imagine the thousands of bandages that were rolled, boxes from home that were packed, and the overall sense of pride and duty that must have filled the space during the war.
- Our 1904 Carnegie Library was placed on the Register of National Historic Places in 1979!
- The Carnegie Library is home to a PWAP (Public Works of Art Program) mural that was painted in 1934 by Douthitt Wilson. The PWAP commissioned artists to paint scenes from American Life, and the murals housed at the Carnegie Library are representative of just that. Our murals remain today in the exact location they were originally commissioned for, which is unlike most of the murals commissioned through the PWAP program.
The Smith County Historical Society has resided within this historic building since the mid-1980’s. We take incredible pride in preserving and protecting our local history and it is a great honor for us to do this from such a historic site.