Thursday, August 14, 2008

Yreka's Carnegie Library ~ 1915




The view to the left is a current photo of the former Carnegie Library that served Yreka for 55 years. It currently houses the Yreka Police Department, but the outward front of the structure looks just like historic images, although an addition was made to the rear of the building in later years. This wonderful building has stood in the same place since 1915 ~ at 415 Miner Street.

The Carnegie Library "story" is a interesting one if you aren't familiar with Andrew Carnegie and his wonderful gifts to the American people. Carnegie immigrated from Scotland with his parents as a small child and is often regarded as the quintessential self-made man, he was one of the richest men in the world at the height of his success. He built Pittsburgh's Carnegie Steel Company along with several other steel companies. As a child he learned to love to read and became self-educated because he was able to borrow books, this eventually lead him into one of his many interests in philanthropy and education. One of his notable projects was providing grants to cities (often focusing on smaller communities) for Library buildings. His grants were clever in many ways, they not only provided money for the buildings but part of the grant requirements were that the city or community had to submit or earn a portion of the money needed, as in purchasing the land and books, etc. It gave the communities a great resource and the incentive to make it work!

According to information from the files of the Siskiyou County Library, on March 14, 1913, a letter with a promise of $8,000, from the Carnegie Corporation to pay for a building to house a public library was received in Yreka. In June of 1913 the City of Yreka acquired property on Miner Street for this new library. The Yreka Improvement Club donated $100 to be applied to the purchase of the lot, at a later time the Yreka Improvement Club donated additional funds. Many of these local funds were raised by giving dances, card parties and the like. It is noted in this information that on October 21, 1915 the Grand Opening of the Yreka Carnegie Library occurred.

It may be of interest to note that this Carnegie Library was not Yreka's only Library! There were several early libraries, including the Yreka Ladies' Library Association in 1857, and the Siskiyou County Library established around 1910. For many years there were two libraries serving the community. The Siskiyou County Library and the Yreka Carnegie Library was merged (consolidation agreement) into one institution officially in 1968.

There is a 1915 photo of this building in our Yreka, Images of America book on page 63, and another on page 124 showing the building in the background during a drill exercise of the 10th Regiment of the California State Guard in 1942. There are other photos of the Siskiyou County Library on pages 64, 65 and 66 in the book as well.
Copyright: Claudia A. East, 2008.

1 comment:

Denise Beckhart said...

I was glad to find this post on the history of the libraries in Yreka. I still remember my mother taking me when I was probably 4 or 5 to the original building on Miner. I have a faint memory of being in a temporary library, perhaps on Main Street near the old hospital? when I was very little. Were the books moved to a temporary location while the Siskiyou County Library building was being built on 4th St.?