Lexington's Carnegie Library|
by Eric Thomason, courtesy of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
Lexington's library has a long, distinguished history. Established
in 1795, it is now the oldest institution of its kind in Kentucky
and possibly the oldest in the west. The library was started with
400 books, which were added to the collection that already existed
at the Transylvania Seminary. The library was based on subscription
wherein people paid for the use of the library holdings. In 1898,
Lexington was deemed a second-class city by the Kentucky Legislature
and this classification enabled the city to acquire and conduct
a free library.
The Carnegie Library, also known as the Lexington Public Library,
was built in 1906 as a gift to the city of Lexington from the
Andrew Carnegie Foundation. Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie donated
$60,000 of his approximate $550 million fortune to the city for
the construction of the library building. To receive its donation,
the Carnegie Foundation required the city to provide a site for
the library and to appropriate funds for the library's upkeep.
The new building was constructed of Bedford limestone and was
built for a sum of $75,000. Thereafter, the contents of the library
were moved to their new home, a beautiful Neo-Classical building
at the southern end of Gratz Park.
During the late 1980s the Lexington
Public Library built a new, larger central branch on East Main Street to accommodate
its growing collection. The Carnegie Library is now the home of the Carnegie Center
for Literacy and Learning. This organization provides many free, public programs
to help spread literacy and to promote reading among children.
The Carnegie Library is located in the Gratz
Park Historic District at 251 West Second St. For information
about the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning please call
859-254-4175 or visit its website.