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Mark in Texas History: Tyler Carnegie Library

Published: Aug. 28, 2021 at 1:02 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Like other museums in East Texas, this one is a state historical marker. This week’s subject of “A Mark in Texas History” by Mark Scirto highlights the Tyler Carnegie Library.

In 1902, the Tyler Free Library Board requested funding from philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie had a passion for free public libraries, and in his life, funded over 1,600 libraries with $60 million dollars. Carnegie agreed to provide $15,000 for the Tyler library, under the stipulation the city provide the building site and maintain it.

A Chicago architectural firm designed the Italian Renaissance-style building. The original library housed children’s and adults’ reading rooms and an office on the first floor. Carnegie did have a condition for children before they picked up a book.

“Most of the population of East Texas was farmers and ranchers. He wanted to be sure children could wash their hands before they read any books. We still have that original washbasin here, and It was one of the area’s first running water in downtown Tyler,” said JB Smith, the president of Smith County Historical Society.

The second floor had an auditorium with a stage and dressing rooms. For a long while, it was the only public auditorium in Tyler.

After the new Tyler Public Library was built in 1979, the building was remodeled and began housing a free museum which is now run by the Smith County Historical Society.

The building received a historical marker designation in 2010.

The Tyler Carnegie Library is located on the corner of East Elm Street and South College Avenue. You can drive by to check it out, but the building is closed to visitors due to COVID-19 concerns.

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