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!

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.