Guthrie’s Historic Carnegie Library recently completed phase II of their renovation process and a ribbon cutting was held in celebration Saturday, April 20. The library was constructed in 1902 when a wealthy steel manufacturer, Andrew Carnegie, donated 25,000 to Guthrie’s Carnegie Library. It was the second Carnegie Library built in Oklahoma, Oklahoma City’s being the first, and is the oldest existing Carnegie Library in the state. There were 26 Carnegie libraries built in Oklahoma during this time. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, the Guthrie Carnegie Library now exists as a part of the Guthrie Museum Complex.
A prominent local architect, J.H. Bennett, designed the building. His design included two stories; the first story with a domed rotunda room, with five radiating reading, book storage and club rooms. The building is designed in the second Renaissance Revival style. Architectural features of the original design have been preserved and many original furnishings can also be found in the building.
The remodel on the Carnegie began as two phases. Planning and design for Phase I began in August of 2014 and ended in February of 2017. This phase was to waterproof the building and put in proper drainage. This issue was identified in the 1970s. Planning and design for Phase II began in April 2016 and ended March of 2019. Numerous limestone blocks were replaced, brick pointing done, and structural repairs to the front porch, stairs, and north side of the building. The total amount spent was $775,000 for both projects.
“Funding for the renovations came from the Capital Improvements Program operated by the state of Oklahoma. Agencies were asked to identify big projects that needed to be worked on,” explained Nathan Turner, Regional Director of Museums and Historical Sites for the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Turner feels that the Carnegie Library is a community resource and he and his team want to continue to tell the story of what it means to Guthrie citizen’s then and now. The library can also be used for meetings and small venues as it holds around 100 people, but the building is not air conditioned.
“Building the library in 1902 was important to citizens of that day,” explained Turner. “It was respectable to have a library. It was a place where women’s clubs could meet and a place to educate people. It served as the library in Guthrie until the 1970s until the city library was built. My favorite thing is to hear the fond memories that people have of the library during their youth.”
Turner recounted some of the historical events of the Carnegie Library as well. “From a historical standpoint, on the steps of the library was where the last territorial governor and the first state governors were inaugurated. On statehood day there were some 25,000 people encircling the Carnegie Library, we have photographs of that day. From a statewide perspective, it is an incredibly important building. It’s also where the symbolic wedding of Miss Indian Territory and Mr. Oklahoma Territory was also held.”
The Oklahoma Territorial Museum is attached to the Carnegie Library and was completed in 1972. It focuses on the land run of 1889 and the early Oklahoma territorial period. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Guided or self-guided tours are available.
For more information on the Carnegie Library or the Oklahoma Territorial Museum call 405-282-1889.