Point’s Carnegie Library: A bothersome frill
By Chelsey Pfiffner
Part V continued from previous edition
By the early 1960s complaints about overcrowding at the library dominated public discussion. The rotunda once a lovely sight, now called a “bothersome frill” was filled with stacks of bound magazines only reachable through a padlocked gate and the winding old staircase. “Originally, there was an opening in the first-floor ceiling and from the main desk you could look up into the dome. Later the opening was sealed,” and the beautiful special ordered green art glass was covered. Everywhere “book stacks standing where book stacks aren’t supposed to be.” Library officials declared that “the brick structure has outlived its usefulness as a library.”
Complaints of odd angles and no space for growth tabled talk about expanding the original structure. There was a preference to sell the old building and build a new modern library, but funding remained an issue.
Then at the end of 1963, Charles M. White died and left $140,000 to the city. His intention was that it be used for a “project or building that will be beneficial” to the people of Stevens Point. Almost immediately it was decided that money would go towards the building of a new modern public library leaving the fate of the Carnegie Library in the hands of whoever purchased the building and land.
In April 1966, construction began on the new Charles M White library at the corner of Church and Clark Streets, a historic corner where the city’s first church was built in 1853. It was also, ironically, next to the property where the high school burned in 1892, when the library lost half of its original collection.
The new library would be built in the Brutalism style, a steep contrast to the Romanesque styling of its Carnegie Library sibling just down the road.
At the end of December 1967, Stevens Point’s Free Public Carnegie Library closed its heavy ornate doors and prepared for the move. Once again, the immense collection of books moved to a new home just down the block; and once again, they found a new home on new shelving, leaving the dusty, worn varnished shelves behind to meet their fate.
The building was sold to the First National Bank and sat empty for a few years. Then in April 1969, the bank decided to demolish the building citing vandalism concerns.
Read the final installment in next week’s edition.
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@example.com.