History of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall
Carnegie, Pennsylvania

By Glenn A. Walsh
September, 1997


Early History

Until 1894, the neighboring boroughs of Chartiers and Mansfield existed, across Chartiers Creek from each other, just southwest of the West End section of Pittsburgh. The voters of the two boroughs, which had been working together closely, chose to unite the two communities on February 20, 1894; the new borough was named "Carnegie," in honor of the well-known industrialist, Andrew Carnegie. Mr. and Mrs. Carnegie were so touched by this gesture that on November 5, 1895, during his dedication address for The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and The Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh(his largest philanthropic endeavor, to-date), Andrew Carnegie formally announced that he would build a library in Carnegie, Pennsylvania:"...and hope also to be able to provide a library for a community which has been so partial as to adopt our name, much to the surprise of Mrs. Carnegie and myself(Applause), but I will not deny also, much to our satisfaction;..."

On April 26, 1898, Mr. Carnegie approved a grant of $200,000(by the end of the project, this figure had increased to $244,000) to purchase property and construct a building to house a Free Public Library, 800-seat Music Hall, Lecture Hall(now with 140 seats from the former Grand Theater of Carnegie, Pennsylvania), and Gymnasium. This amount included funds for purchasing enough land, not only for the building, but also for a small in-town park adjacent to the building. This grant also included an additional $10,000 for the purchase of the Library's first supply of books.
After the purchase of property, construction of the building, and the purchase of the first supply of books, the remainder of the $254,000($93,000) was used to establish an Endowment fund for the Andrew Carnegie Free Library. The site chosen for this project was on a hill in the middle of town, overlooking the business district.

A deed was prepared, between the Mansfield Land Company and Andrew Carnegie, to purchase property for the construction of the Library, on February 4, 1899. However, in a letter of "17th March 1899.", Andrew Carnegie decided "It is much better for the Library Commission to take Title direct." Hence, a second deed was registered in the County of Allegheny Recorder of Deeds Office, on March 27, 1899, for the purchase of the same property. This second deed was executed between the Mansfield Land Company and the seventeen men who had been appointed, by Andrew Carnegie, to be members of the Library Board of Trustees; this is the deed that is legally in-force.

On April 20, 1899, Mr. Carnegie executed a Declaration of Trust agreement which legally created the Andrew Carnegie Free Library. The Trust agreement allowed for a 17-member Board of Trustees. This Board includes ten "Life Trustees," the "Life Board" being self-perpetuating, and seven, voting, "Ex-Officio Trustees," which included the Carnegie Mayor and the six Borough Councilmen.

The Trust agreement specifically stated, "The Library shall be free to the people forever, but a charge may be made for the use of the halls for entertainments, concerts, and other suitable performances and assemblages. The proceeds from such charges to be added to the income from the Endowment Fund, and shall be used for the same purpose."

As with other early libraries he constructed, Andrew Carnegie was concerned that a budget crunch in the town, having such a library, may lead to admission charges to the library. Hence, in many of these early libraries, he insisted that the word "Free" be engraved in stone on the building; there would never be a doubt that the library must remain free to the public. For the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, the words, "Carnegie Free Library" were engraved in stone over the outside entrance and on the wood-paneling over the fireplace in the main reading room. In the case of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the words "Free to the People" were engraved over the entrance of the Main Library in Schenley Park, in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.

In most cases, Andrew Carnegie did not require that his name be included in the name of the library he donated. However, in the case of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library, he did require(as stipulated in the Declaration of Trust agreement) that both his first and last names be included in the Library's title, apparently to ensure that people knew that the Library was named after him--not after the town(even though the town was named after him!). Although there are many other "Carnegie Libraries" and "Carnegie Free Libraries," no other public library bears both his first and last names. Only an academic library, at Livingstone College(founded in 1879) in Salisbury, North Carolina, bears both names as the "Andrew Carnegie Library"(erected in 1908). However, for some reason his first name was not included on the front of our building, or over our fireplace(both read "Carnegie Free Library").

The By-Laws of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library were first established on April 9, 1900. These By-Laws were significantly amended during the Special Meetings of July 5, 1995(at the Council Chamber, Borough of Carnegie) and September 18, 1995(at the Library); the By-Law changes were approved at the September meeting as part of the settlement of a legal action brought against the Life Trustees of the Library by the Borough of Carnegie. An amendment, during the Annual Meeting of March 17, 1997(at the Library), permitted the Library's Advisory Board(established by one of the 1995 amendments) to be enlarged from "eight members and one chairperson", "to provide for an Advisory Board of no more than twelve members and one chairman." An amendment, enacted during the Special Meeting of January 5, 1998(at the Council Chamber, Borough of Carnegie), further amended Section 6(also amended in 1995) to allow the scheduling of all Board of Trustees meetings, each year at the March Annual Meeting.

The laying of the building's cornerstone(which includes a time capsule), took place on October 19, 1899 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time; according to the next day's Carnegie Item, 3000-4000 people attended the ceremony. The Library opened to the public on May 1, 1901; the first book charged-out for loan was "Triumphant Democracy" authored by Andrew Carnegie. The first concert in the Music Hall, performed by the Carnegie Men's Glee Club, took place on May 10, 1901.

Andrew Carnegie was not able to attend any of these three events. However, on April 22, 1902, he traveled to the Library, via a leased streetcar, for the official dedication ceremony. As part of this ceremony, Andrew Carnegie gave the Music Hall a stage curtain, on which was a painting of Skibo Castle, his Scottish home. This historic curtain was recreated and dedicated, again, on July 18, 1997, prior to the Stage 62 performance of Pippin.

Andrew Carnegie was accompanied, on this trip to the Library, by well-known educator, astronomer, and optician, John A. Brashear. Brashear, who at the time(1901 to 1904) was Acting Chancellor of the Western University of Pennsylvania(now the University of Pittsburgh), had been Director of the original Allegheny Observatory from 1898 to 1900. Brashear's company, based on the Old Observatory Hill of the City of Allegheny(now Pittsburgh's North Side), was known world-wide as a maker of precision optical and scientific instruments. Click here to learn more about John A. Brashear.

In 1906, a room on the second floor of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library was provided to the Captain Thomas Espy Post Number 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veterans' organization. It was arranged that, once the last member of this post "met his final role call," the many Civil War artifacts would become the property of the Library, to be displayed to the public for posterity.

Of the original grant, $93,000 was reserved for an Endowment Fund for the Library. Of the 2,509 libraries Andrew Carnegie constructed throughout the English-speaking world, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library was the fourth of only five libraries he actually endowed; the home communities, of these libraries, were not required to publicly subsidize their libraries(although, such subsidy was encouraged). All other towns, which received a library gift from Andrew Carnegie, were required to subsidize their library by an annual amount that, at least, equalled ten-percent of the cost of the library building, an arrangement soon dubbed "The Carnegie Formula." Click here to learn more about The Carnegie Formula and other early Carnegie Libraries.

The Andrew Carnegie Free Library has many financial difficulties over the years. However, unlike the Braddock Carnegie Library which was closed for much of the 1970s and 1980s, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library has not closed for more than a few months, in its long history. In 1912, at the height of the Library's first major financial crisis, Andrew Carnegie added $100,000 to the original Endowment Fund, as a "Christmas gift."

Through the auspices of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Historical and Museum Commission, the Andrew Carnegie Free Library was entered in the National Register of Historic Places on October 8, 1981.

Copyright 1997-2000, Glenn A. Walsh, All Rights Reserved


Andrew Carnegie Free Library History Cover Page

History Plaques of Library

History of Library's Civil War Museum

History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries

The Carnegie Formula and Early Carnegie Libraries

History of Astronomer and Optician John A. Brashear

History of The Duquesne Incline, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


Return to Information about the Andrew Carnegie Free Library.

Return to Andrew Carnegie Free Library.