It’s been over 3 years since I wrote about a number of Carnegie Libraries on one of my blogs. Many of the Carnegie Libraries have been demolished. Some have been repurposed for other uses and some are still in use. Of the ones that have been reused, some have been remodeled or enlarged.
The Carnegie Libraries were built to last. Many were made from stone and brick. The Lincoln Public Library is one of the more beautiful Carnegie Libraries (in my opinion).
Lincoln Library Association, headed by Colonel Robert B. Latham, developed the Lincoln Library in 1874. Fourteen Lincoln women sold shares to stockholders and those shareholders donated $2 per share to the annual fund to support the library that found a temporary home on Kickapoo Street. The school board appropriated funds later so that the high school students could use the building.
In 1901, the City of Lincoln received a Carnegie grant to build a new library. Carnegie Grants to fund the construction of libraries were given to select communities that would guarantee ongoing support of the facility, pay staff and secure the land. A home and two lots had been donated by Isabel Nash for the site, along with funds from Judge Stephen Foley and the city got things going. Librarian Ida Webster had a significant role from the beginning and stayed on at the library for 55 years!
The Lincoln Public Library was constructed in the neoclassical architectural styles designed by W. A. Otis, of Chicago, in Lincoln, IL. Other than maintenance and alterations not affecting the structure’s character, the only significant change has been the remodeling and opening of the basement during 1972-1974.
The library’s vestibule has retained the original fleur-de-lis pattern of green, ivory and brick mosaic tile. The same semi-circular wooden main desk and over the desk an original mural. A stained-glass ceiling dome still graces the library. Many other original features remain.
Greater need for space was solved when the Library Annex was acquired, formerly the Woolworth Building behind the original library.
Lincoln Public Library’s history reflects American ideals that led to a growth of free public education and free libraries. The Lincoln Public Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The library is located at 725 Pekin Street, Lincoln, Illinois 62656.
For more information see Lincoln Daily News Archives.