(Colorado Springs, CO) Colorado Springs has beautiful scenery, terrific weather, delicious craft beer, and fascinating history, including two impressive Carnegie Libraries.
Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was born in Scotland and came from humble beginnings. Through his tireless efforts and dedication, he achieved great success, eventually becoming the owner of the largest steel manufacturing company in the world. Carnegie was a philanthropist and used his vast fortune to support causes worldwide, including the construction of public libraries.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of 1,795 libraries in the United States (both public and academic ones).
The Carnegie Library Grants were in high demand, and towns had to fulfill certain conditions before qualifying for the money. The community had to supply the land, contribute ten percent of the town's annual funding to maintain and staff the library, and provide free service to the public. Carnegie's generous grant paid for the building and books.
The libraries were often grand structures with classical architecture. They were designed to inspire and uplift the communities they served. Carnegie believed that information and knowledge should be accessible to all, and he felt that libraries were essential to the education and development of the populace.
The libraries were not just in big cities, they were also in rural areas and small towns, where access to books and information was limited.
The Carnegie grants funded thirty-five libraries in Colorado, the first in Grand Junction in 1899 and the last in 1917 in Florence, Colorado. Thirty of these structures still stand today, and many continue to serve as libraries.
The Pikes Peak Library District is lucky to have two Carnegie-funded libraries.
The Old Colorado City Library (2418 W. Pikes Peaks Ave) was built with help from a Carnegie grant in 1904 and has been in continuous operation since then. The historical building features modern conveniences, friendly staff, and architectural charm. It has large windows, wood floors, antique radiators, and a wall clock that has been in the library since the 1920s.
There is also a Carnegie Library in downtown Colorado Springs at 21 West Kiowa Street, less than three miles from the Old Colorado City branch.
The grand, Neo-Classical designed building has tall windows and elaborate trim, and it was finished in 1905 with the help of a $60,000 Carnegie grant. The library is next door to the current Penrose branch and now houses the Regional History and Genealogy collections of the Pikes Peak Library District.
Colorado Springs is lucky to have two Carnegie library gems.
Although public libraries have changed in the last century, their mission remains true to Carnegie's vision: a community hub that provides free access to books, information, and services. It is an institution worth protecting.
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