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Look Back: Library for sale

The Carnegie Library in Parkersburg, circa 1910. Though not clear in the photo above, the roof of the library originally had a small “dome.” An undated news item chronicles, “In 1943, the dome that was on top of the library was struck by lightning. It amazed Librarian Anne E. Taylor that not one book was damaged by either fire or water.” (Photo by Jeff Little, text from the files of Paul Borrelli)

Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical and Preservation Society. If you have comments or questions about Look Back items, please contact him at: roberteenoch@gmail.com, or by mail at WCHPS, PO Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

Carnegie Library

“The old Carnegie Library building and property will go on the block Tuesday at 2 p.m. in a public auction on the steps of the 73-year-old landmark.

“The 8th and Green street property will be sold to the highest bidder. Wood County Schools, which own the property, will apply proceeds from the library sale to capital improvements, including fire safety installations in the schools.

“The Wood County Board of Education transferred the old Emerson School property on 31st Street and Emerson Avenue to the library board in 1973 for construction of the new Parkersburg – Wood County Public Library. The exchange was contingent on disposal of the downtown Carnegie Library to finance capital improvements in the county schools.

“The Carnegie Library was built in 1905 and is one of the few remaining buildings constructed in the original design, including spiral stairway and glass floors.

“‘There were nice things about the old library,’ Dorothy Muse, librarian, said. ‘I could see everyone who came in the library. It was friendly … but I get more work done in our new building.’

“‘During the winter I loved the fireplace in my office,’ Mrs. Muse said. ‘The old mantels are beautiful.’

“When the library was moved to its new location in 1976, the portrait of Andrew Carnegie and the old Seth Thomas clock went along, but it was not practical to take the spiral staircase. Furniture not moved to the new library was auctioned in February 1976.

“The site for sale Tuesday was the fourth location of the Parkersburg library. The first library, begun in 1891, was housed in a donated space over the H.P. Moss Bookstore on Market Street between 4th and 5th streets.

“The library moved to the then new city building just before the turn of the century. Its next location was the old junior high school [Washington] on the site now occupied by the UpTowner Inn.

“In 1904, philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave the city $34,000 for a public library building. One condition of the gift required that the school board provide a suitable lot plus annual operating expenses equal to 10 percent of the grant.

“The board of education funded the library until 1967, when it became an independent entity and the school board, Wood County Commission and City Council entered into an agreement to establish a new library board. At one time, Wood County schools’ administrative offices were at the Carnegie Library.

“In 1970, a report found the Carnegie Library building to be inadequate. More than $800,000 was contributed by the community toward [building] the new $1.7 million Parkersburg — Wood County Library.”

Excerpt from The Parkersburg Sentinel

July 14, 1978

Note: The library building remained empty from 1976, until the sale in 1978.

To be continued…

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