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LITTLE ROCK’S HISTORY: CARNEGIE LIBRARY RUINS

17 Apr

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.

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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.

Carnegie Library 1910

The Carnegie Columns (Photo by Jeanne Marie Meyer)

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.

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7 Comments

Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Architecture, Little Rock

 

7 responses to “LITTLE ROCK’S HISTORY: CARNEGIE LIBRARY RUINS

  1. Brooke

    April 17, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    So who was in charge of demolishing all of the old beautiful buildings downtown and replacing them with parking lots? *anger*

     
    • masonellis

      April 18, 2012 at 10:54 am

      Unfortunately, lots of people. “Urban Renewal” (eye roll) in the 60 and 70’s was one of the biggest problems. They tried to make Downtown look new and shiny and make it easier for cars. So we lost a lot of great old buildings that had been neglected and now cars rule the streets. So it’s not a very pleasant environment. But citizens and officials are starting to realize the mistakes of the past and its getting a lot better! Although we’re still tearing down buildings in the central core to build parking lots. ugh…

      3rd and Louisiana
      3rd and Center
      400 block of Main

      It should be illegal

       
  2. Kristin

    April 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Woah. I have never seen a before picture of the warehouse. Thanks for sharing.

     
  3. Little Rock Love

    September 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Thank you for this very interesting post! I didn’t know that the new River Market library used a previously-existing building (warehouse). I did know about the destruction of the original Carnegie library at 7th and Louisiana (TRAGIC) and my husband’s friend’s dad or granddad is the one who saved the columns (BLESS HIM). My favorite part of this post is the GREAT NEWS that part of the original library still exists inside the replacement library building. I LOVE THE PHOTOS of the architecture! It makes me even more sad that they tore the original building down but at least the columns are being honored in their new location and pieces of the past remain between the walls. Thanks for the history lesson!

     
  4. Cliff Rhodey

    October 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I can add to this story. The facade remains and was partially restored during the final renovation of the facility. It is on display every day for all who work within the facility to enjoy. The old structure was never torn down…it’s infrastructure remains and is actually a structural part of the south 1/3 of the existing facility. I can also confirm that the pictures above are of the North Wall of the original Library. I had wondered where the colums had gone and I am so glad to find that they were placed in front of the new library. I would love to send a few pictures to update the story.

     
  5. valeriewabisabi

    June 10, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    What a wonderful story! I used to want to buy the Fones Brothers building to live in!

     

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