Parkersburg Carnegie Library

For the second time in less than a month I found myself standing before a Carnegie Library that is empty and unused. This one is in downtown Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Built in 1905 with some funds from Andrew Carnegie, this classical style building is imposing on its corner lot. Sadly, it hasn’t been a library since 1975.

For several years though it was the Trans Allegheny Book Store. I read once that it was the largest used bookstore in West Virginia.

It had a good run in this capacity from 1985 through 2010. It’s closed now and I couldn’t tell what’s going on. There’s a chain link fence that wouldn’t keep anyone out on one side of the building and a gate in front of the entrance. Some lower windows have been boarded up. It looks like someone is preparing to do something but I couldn’t tell what.

There’s a new Marriott Hotel next door and I couldn’t help but think about this building’s possibilities while worrying for its future. It would make a magnificent restaurant, bookstore, boutique hotel, fancy store – any of number of businesses could find it a perfect home. It sure is a shame to see it sitting empty given all that potential.

If you’re in downtown Parkersburg, swing by 725 Green St. and have a look. If you have a bundle of cash sitting in the way, maybe buy it and and breathe new life into the place!

Greenville Carnegie

The Carnegie Library in Greenville, Ohio is still in use as a library and has this statue outside.

Isn’t it delightful? Reading really does open up the world and make life more enjoyable.

This library has been well maintained and expanded over more than a century to suit community needs. I read an article about the building where the library director said that new isn’t always better.

Of course, this made my heart sing.

Sometimes our rich history wins and the gorgeous buildings of our past live on.

I’ve stumbled into three Carnegie libraries in the last couple of weeks and have shared something about each of them. Scroll back through my page here to find the others and trust that I’ll move on to something else tomorrow!

Pomeroy Carnegie

Saturday found me wandering around Pomeroy for a couple of hours. I was both excited and sad to find this Carnegie Library.

It’s on Second Street, just down from the Courthouse and close to the post office, literally a stone’s throw from all the important things that go on in a county seat.

Like the Carnegie in Xenia that I showed you a couple of days ago, this one is no longer a library. The library outgrew it and built a new one out on Main Street in 1989.

Honestly, I can hardly blame them.

Pomeroy is built on the banks of the mighty Ohio River and this neighborhood feels narrow to me. On one side is the River and the other a hill. There literally was no way to add on to the historic Carnegie and it was too small for modern needs.

Opened in 1914, it’s one of the smaller and more practical Carnegies that I’ve seen in my travels. It fulfilled a real and tangible need in this Appalachian community and served that community well for 75 years.

Today it’s a law firm and seems well cared for, an observation that made my heart happy.

Today, the Meigs County Library System has multiple branches across the county and seems to work at serving the community in innovative ways. You can use your library card to borrow a hotspot for a week. They moved to a virtual program format when the pandemic hit and in-person event no longer permissible. They even are a distribution site for at-home Covid tests.

Plus, like most libraries today, they offer audio books, movies, and access to digital libraries that take readers far beyond the confines of their building’s walls.

People forget – or maybe they just don’t know – that modern libraries offer more than the tangibles than books. In Appalachian communities, they are very much a community center and a hub for free activities and learning for all. For many kids and even some adults, librarians are the first people who encourage them to read, learn and explore.

That stately Carnegie building served its purpose well for 75 years. I can’t help but be sad that change came but I’m glad to see it has a new lease on life while the library system continues to evolve and grow for future generations.

Carnegie Library of Xenia

Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie built close to 1,700 libraries in his lifetime. You’ll see a lot of them still used in towns and cities across America. I found one in Xenia while out exploring last weekend.

Carnegie spent about $40 million on his libraries. He believed that libraries were the best gift he could offer a community as it gave equal access to self improvement to all. Some of these libraries are still used for their original function but many have been repurposed into events centers, stores and restaurants. This one, sadly, is just empty.

There had been a revitalization project underway a few years ago but there doesn’t seem to be any movement afoot right now.

The building dates back to 1906 when it opened with a gala affair attended by local social and political leaders. The library eventually outgrew the space this beautiful building offered and a new library was constructed closer to downtown. It was used for storage for a while and then changed hands before eventually being sold to the county. As far as I can tell it has been unused all these years.

Volunteers formed a group called Carnegie Historic District that got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2017, the library made headlines for efforts to reimagine the building but things have gone quiet and I can’t tell if there’s anything still happening on that front.

It’s a gorgeous Classical Revival with a stained glass dome and ionic columns. I hate to see it empty but certainly understand why. These types of revitalization efforts are costly, time consuming and a real challenge to fund. Here’s hoping they are able to breathe new life into this exquisite piece of history.