Boosters heralded the Carnegie Library as an “ornament to the city’’ when it opened in Downtown Phoenix in 1908, giving residents their first permanent public library. Today, the red brick building is one of the city’s historic jewels and will share the spotlight as adjacent Washington Street undergoes a pedestrian-friendly makeover to celebrate the state’s Centennial.
In 1904, the Women’s Club of Phoenix received a $25,000 grant to build a library from the Carnegie Foundation, which funded libraries around the country and is celebrating its own centennial in 2011. Set amid expansive grounds, the Carnegie Library opened on Feb. 14, 1908 at what is now Washington Street and 10th Avenue. It quickly became a community center and was bursting at the seams by the 1940s, according to researcher Mary Melcher. A new main library, at Central Avenue and McDowell Road, replaced it in 1952.
Over the years, the building has been used as a recreation center, storage facility, and way station for the homeless. It underwent a renovation in 1987 but was closed in 2001. Now called the Carnegie Center, it is used by nonprofit groups and government agencies for meetings and also houses employees of the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The state leases the building from the city.
“We feel very fortunate to work in such a unique building with such a rich history,’’ says Holly Henley, library development department director. “It’s not your traditional cubicle.’’