Editor’s Note: This is part of a series that highlights sites on the National Register of Historic Places across the region.
To say that the Jacksonville Public Library is one of many might sound redundant.
Of course there are libraries everywhere, from the smallest to the largest city.
As institutions, there are some that have a very attractive, classic architectural appearance that the public can marvel at. But there is a special class of libraries that stand on their own – the Carnegie Libraries – and of the nearly 1,700 built in the United States during the turn of the 20th century, Jacksonville has one of them.
Andrew Carnegie began building libraries in places he was familiar and familiar with, but inquiries came in later when his assistant James Bertram was hired.
“They all have similar architectural characteristics. You’ll see pillars in front, ”said Sara Snyder, adult services librarian at Jacksonville Public Library. “Many of the same architects from Chicago built many of the Carnegie libraries.”
Some of the common features you’ll find include stained oak trimmings, ceramic tile floors, and in some cases – Jacksonvilles, for example – a dome rotunda, according to the application on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was local attorney LO Vaught who formally applied for Jacksonville to have its own Carnegie library.
Over time, the money was spent and the library opened in 1902.
“When you look at it from the outside, it just stands out,” said Snyder. “It’s pretty big, especially for the Jacksonville population. Even at the time it was built. “
In the mid-1990s, an extension was added and, according to the NRHP application, the building was massively expanded. But the story was left intact. The limestone structure that was once the outside of the library is now an inside wall that separates old and new.
“People from out of town like Springfield or St. Louis will comment,” Snyder said.
It may be historical, but there is one quality that remains true. The services and assistance that a library provides to people continues to grow.
“It’s a place where you can go to someone and ask any question in the world,” said Snyder passionately. “Just establishing a connection with another person after the pandemic is very valuable. We were only closed for a few months when we were completely sealed off. “
Jacksonville’s Carnegie Library was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.