Point’s Carnegie Library: Short on funds
By Chelsey Pfiffner
Part III continued from previous edition
With some dispute, land was eventually obtained at the southwest corner of Strongs Avenue and Clark Street. Soon after Architect Henry A. Foeller, of Green Bay was hired and drawings were made. Bid requests for construction of the library began in October. By December 1901, George Potter’s $17,900 bid, not including plumbing, heating, nor finishing touches, officially had been accepted.
Whereas things seemed to be running smoothly from afar, communications from Foeller show that there were issues between his design and what the contractor produced, as well as other issues with the pace of Potter’s work. There were several setbacks during construction that irritated Foeller enough that he wrote a few strong worded letters regarding the contractor’s work. In a letter dated Jan. 11, 1904 Foeller tells Potter that he “find(s) it useless to urge you on since you seem to take your own time regardless of all notices.”
It also seems that it was realized early on that the city would be short funds to reach completion, but work continued to move forward until the money was finally needed. Documents show that after balancing the budget for the building, including monies set aside for plumbing, heating, and the interior, that the city would need $1,858 more or the contractor would lose money. When the time came near completion, there was much discussion as to where to obtain the money. Eventually, the common council and the library board chose to ask Carnegie for more money:
“And while the library spirit is excellent in Stevens Point, and our library circulation is larger than in any other city in Wisconsin of the population of Stevens Point, yet the people are poor, and the additional money, small as it may seem, is hard to get, almost impossible at this time,” stated the library board and Stevens Point Common Council to Andrew Carnegie, March 1904.
Fundraising continued in the form of a board of education vs. city council baseball game to pay for the cement walks and landscaping on the new grounds. Carnegie thankfully agreed to donate the additional funds, and completion pressed on. Opening day plans moved forward.
Even with setbacks, two years to the month after Dr. Southwick received the letter from Carnegie’s secretary, the library board declared the building finished enough for them to move in and hold meetings. Over the months of April and May, they raised the librarian’s monthly salary from $25 to $45, hired an additional assistant librarian, hired a janitor with a $25 monthly wage, and set a reception and dedication date for June 1, 1904. In May, Henry Foeller made a last visit to inspect the building, and as architect he finalized the project, only commenting about the paint job on the outside metal pieces.
And once again, the books were moved.
This story is being used courtesy of Chelsey Pfiffner, research historian and proprietor of Primary Source Investigations. For more photos and more by this author, visit the “Historic Stevens Point” Facebook page or www.historicstevenspoint.com. Contact Pfiffner at [email protected]