Carnegie History Center
The Smith County Historical Society is housed in the Carnegie History Center, located at
125 South College Avenue in downtown Tyler. The building formerly served as the Carnegie Public Library.
The following excerpt from the book Tyler by Robert Reed gives a brief history of the Carnegie Public Library:
“A library existed in Tyler at various locations since the 1890s, first as a subscription library, but it was converted to a free public one in 1901. Andrew Carnegie, from a poor Scottish family that immigrated to the United States in 1848, became a powerful businessman in the American steel industry. He spent his last years as a philanthropist, which included building over 2,500 libraries worldwide. Tyler received a $15,000 donation from Carnegie to build a new home for its library. Private funds were used to buy the lot, furnishings, and landscaping. It was completed in 1904 on the northwest corner of South College Avenue and West Elm Street. In 1936 an expansion on the west side doubled its size. The library moved to a new building south across the street in 1980.” (Excerpt used courtesy of the author.)
The Carnegie Public Library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The dedication of the new Tyler Public Library left the former location an empty building whose future was in doubt. The City of Tyler leased the building to the Smith County Historical Society on the condition that the building would be completely renovated. The restoration preserved the historic integrity of the building, while modernizing it to assure the comfort of its patrons and to comply with building codes. In 1984 the building opened as the Carnegie History Center, the home of the Society museum and archives. The Payne Auditorium on the second floor serves as the location of the Society’s monthly meetings.
The museum displays artifacts that reflect the historic, social, economic and political culture of Smith County, Texas. Most of these artifacts were donated by public-minded citizens to the Society over the years. Dioramas covering topics ranging from the Caddo Indians to the Twentieth Century are presented in chronological order. There are also several interesting videos on local history. Various items, including photographs and publications, are available for purchase.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission is free, but a donation is suggested. Group tours are welcomed with a reservation.
The archives contain excellent Smith County research reference sources, such as newspapers, city directories, school records, photographs, maps, rare books, and many other historic document collections.
For directions with a map to Carnegie History Center, click here.