Carnegie Libraries

Here we are with another installment of “365 Things to do in Cincinnati” and today we are featuring a few of The Andrew Carnegie Library branches here in Cincinnati.

walnut hills carnegie libraries cincinnati

Cincinnati is fortunate to have a number of Carnegie Libraries.  These libraries were all built in the early 1900’s with funds from Andrew Carnegie – entrepreneur, philanthropist and owner of U.S. Steel.

carnegie libraries cincinnati ohio has this to say about Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropy:

Andrew Carnegie’s philanthropic career began around 1870. He is best known for his gifts of free public library buildings. His first such gift was to his native Dunfermline in 1881, and it was followed by similar gifts to 2,509 communities in the English-speaking world.

carnegie libraries cincinnati ohio

I visited three of the Carnegie Library branches today – Walnut Hills, Corryville and Avondale.   I’ve had some trouble determining just how many Carnegie Libraries are still in Cincinnati.  From what I can tell, there are a total of 7 libraries – the three I mentioned above plus branches in Price Hill, Norwood, Northside, and Hyde Park.  It seems that there were more Carnegie Libraries built in our area but, for today, I’m focusing on the buildings that are still libraries.

stained glass carnegie library cincinnati

Each Carnegie Library has its own unique touches.  Every one we saw today was full of elaborate details.  Above you’ll see the stained glass lighted dome that sits above the circulation desk at the Corryville branch.

rookwood tile at Carnegie library cincinnati

Leading into the Avondale Carnegie Library you’ll find the most amazing Rookwood tile pieces.  The picture above is a list of authors surrounded by elaborate floral motifs – all Rookwood Pottery.  The pictures below are all from the Avondale branch as well.

rookwood tile at Carnegie library cincinnati
rookwood tile at Carnegie library cincinnati

It seems that Carnegie did require a few things from each of his libraries.  Among other things, each branch was required to have a separate child’s room and adult room.  Most have a central circulation desk with these individual rooms surrounding them.  A few of our branches have glass/windowed separations.

carnegie library adult room
carnegie library adult room

Each branch that we visited today had me completely mesmerized.  Created in a day when wood carvings and ceiling ornamentation was “the norm”, these buildings were not only created to house books, these libraries were architectural masterpieces.  We are lucky to still have them today!

carnegie libraries cincinnati ohio
carnegie libraries cincinnati ohio

These libraries all are part of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

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About the Author
Bridgett Raffenberg
My name is Bridgett Raffenberg and I am the creator of 365Cincinnati. I've been uncovering and sharing all of the best things to do in Cincinnati since 2010. I enjoy exploring new spots, discovering local events, and meeting the people who call Cincinnati home!

6 thoughts on “Carnegie Libraries”

  1. I used to go to this library decades ago when I was a little girl, sitting by the fireplace reading. I wished you’d shown some pictures of the fireplace but what you did show was lovely. I never knew the history and now I think I’ll pay a visit not only to my old haunt but to the other libraries as well. I’ve often visited Corryville and enjoyed that one but I’ve never been to the one in Walnut Hills. Thank you for sharing all this great information!

  2. Thank you for gathering a loving tribute to your local libraries. I too grew up with a Carnegie in my little home town in Southern Indiana. One of the stories I have brought with me over the years, was the building was built on a landfill. So close now days to downtown Washington, Indiana its hard to believe it was on the outskirts of town. But not if you take into mind it wasn’t so close in the horse and buggy days that competed with the horse drawn trolley cars that traversed our little Midwestern county seat. (I’m sure the main reason for its existance) My last visit home in a rush to see everything, I was saddened by so many changes. Although I didn’t (take the time to pop in) it seeing the expansion in the delivery dock in the back along with that days hustle and bustle going on through the wide open doors. Did my heart good. Your article has renewed prayer I used to say as a child growing up back there. “And God please a special place in your heart for Mr. Carnegie” Thank you Mr. A, whereever you are, for opening my mind to the world of thought and imagination.”.

  3. Thanks for a great article featuring the Andrew Carnegie branches in the county. I worked at the Main Library for 30 years. There were originally nine Carnegie libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie in Cincinnati. Seven remain today. West End Branch was torn down during urban renewal; although a Carnegie, it did not have most of the ornate and elegant touches of the others, probably because it was the last one built in Cincinnati and that era of design was changing.

    The East End Branch on Eastern Avenue is still used today as a community center. It was restored in the late 1990s or early 2000s after serving various uses over the years. It was closed as a branch library in the 1960s as I recall.

  4. I’ve been to the Carnegie Center at Columbia Tusculum, which is the building on Eastern Ave mentioned above. It’s used for a number of community gatherings, in v luding art lessons given by the Cincinnati Art Academy, the reason I was there. It is also rented out for weddings.

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