The Studio Main exhibit last Friday went well. We had a lot of great discussion with locals about Little Rock’s history. And even though the open house is over, I’m still on a bit of a history kick. So here’s another Little Rock’s History entry.
Little Rock’s Main Library sits in the heart of the Rivermarket District today, and along with the actual Rivermarket Pavilion itself, was one of the earliest contributors to the revitalization of the district and arguably downtown. The Main Library was opened in 1997 in the renovated Fones Brothers Warehouse; one of the many warehouses that have been converted in the area. Just this weekend the building was packed during the Literary Festival with authors from across the state and nation giving lectures about their writing and signing books.
Today’s Library, is the third Little Rock Main Library building. The original Little Rock Library was one of the hundreds of Carnegie Libraries that were built across the nation and in other countries. There were four Carnegie Libraries built in Arkansas, two of which still function as Libraries, one that has been given a new use and one (guess which one) has been demolished.
Rex Nelson’s Southern Fried Blog has a pretty good entry about the Arkansas Carnegie Libraries as well.
Little Rock’s Carnegie Library was built opened in 1910 at the corner of 7th and Louisiana. It served as Little Rock’s Main library until 1964 when it was razed to the ground to construct a new modern library in its place. I guess I can be happy they didn’t tear it down to build a parking lot for once. But all was not lost. During the demolition, a local citizen, William Carl Martin, recovered the original four columns from the Carnegie Library. “Each column consisted of four sections that were hauled away, two at a time in Mr. Martin’s pick-up truck. He later donated two of the columns to Mabelvale High School, which has since released them back to the library.” (http://onlyoriginals.org/blog.html Count Pulaski Way Dedication. July 24, 2009). The columns were erected in front of the Main Library in 2006 and today, frame the entrance to the Library, acting as they did in their original location at the old Carnegie Library.
But Wait! There’s more!
Most accounts of the old Carnegie Library talk about how it was totally destroyed to build the new Library. But this is not completely true. In fact, some of the old façade still remains, encapsulated in the new building walls. During a trip a few years back, John Greer at WER Architects and Charles Witsell explored the old library which was undergoing renovations to become a new data center and found the remains of the old facade. Thank John for providing the Pictures!
These photos appear to be either the
North or South East or West Facade.
Today the site is the Little Rock Entergy Data Center. The ruins still remain hidden within the walls, waiting to hopefully be one day, rediscovered and recovered as part of Little Rock’s past.