The Carnegie Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library

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City/Town: Oklahoma City
Location Class: Government
Year Built: 1954
Year Abandoned: 2004
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: Cody CooperJustin Tyler Moore

In Oklahoma City the first club was formed in October of 1889 when the wives of leading merchants met at the home of Captain Stiles to form the Philomathea Club. Drawing its name from the Greek for “love of learning” the club “has held aloft without ceasing the torch of learning and light” to this day.

The Philomathea Club immediately set about to improve culture and education in the fledgling city. The club had early on assembled a club library, but under the leadership of the fiery Mrs. Selwyn Douglas (Julia), the club began to press for the formation of a public library. In the spring of 1898 Mrs. Douglas settled on the idea of tapping local businessmen (often their husbands) for the funds for this new library and the club set about selling stock in the Public Library Association. Funds were raised in the amount of $500 and several books and a bookcase were purchased. The library was installed in an unused room in the Commercial Club (later the Chamber of Commerce) on the second floor of the Farmers National Bank Building on the southwest corner of Grand (now Sheridan) and Robinson.

Public libraries were springing up all over the United States thanks in large part to the efforts of women´s clubs and to the generosity of wealthy philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. From 1889 to 1896 Carnegie bestowed public library buildings on many small towns in Pennsylvania and his native Scotland. After 1896, Carnegie began to accept solicitations for libraries all across America and would eventually build 1681 libraries in 1412 towns by 1923. Carnegie funded the buildings with the stipulation that the local communities staff and maintain the buildings and provide a collection of books.

Within a year the Philomathean collection grew to 600 volumes and began to press the limits of the spare room. Clearly a new building was needed and Oklahoma City merchant and family friend Thomas P. Mellon, son of the great financier Andrew Mellon, suggested Mrs. Douglas write his father´s associate for a grant. Mrs. Douglas did just that and received a prompt reply in the promise of $25,000 assuming the conditions could be met.

The Club sprang into action and a site was chosen at the northeast corner of Northwest Third and Robinson. The architect was Marshall R. Sanquinet of Fort Worth and the cornerstone was laid August 16, 1900 with much fanfare. All the local dignitaries were in attendance and an original poem by Dr. Delos Walker (for whom Walker Avenue is named) entitled “The House of Books” was read. The Philomatheans also performed a ceremony in which corn, the emblem of plenty, wine, the emblem of joy, and oil, the emblem of peace were spread across the ground. The building was completed by late summer of 1901 and the grand opening gala was held on August 29.

The library quickly grew into a cultural beacon for the city. Mrs. Marian Rock was chosen as the first librarian and she worked closely with the newly federated women´s clubs of Oklahoma City to provide an excellent library. A children´s department was soon opened and met with great interest from the city´s youth. By the end of the first year, the collection had grown to 2137 books and by the end of the second, 7736.

Over the next 50 years the library continued to expand services. In 1909 the building was expanded after receiving an additional $35,000 from Carnegie and $4800 from the city. Branch libraries were established in several public schools which provided a way for books to reach the children without the expense of new facilities. Two new buildings were built in the 1920s, however. The Dunbar branch, began in a store front at 303 North Stiles in 1921 and moved to a newly constructed building at 613 Northeast Fourth in 1926. This library was built with the support of the Federated Colored Women´s Clubs to serve the city´s black population. The Wright Library was built in Stockyards City that same year at 2101 Exchange on land donated by the area meat packing plants.

In 1945, the Friends of the Library association was formed, largely because citizens had become concerned that a library built to serve 10,000 people could not adequately serve 250,000 as it was now expected to do. The Friends quickly pooled public support and were able to secure a $500,000 bond to provide for the construction of a new main library. In 1950 another bond, for $822,000, was secured to provide additional funds for the main library and a large branch to be built in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The Capitol Hill library opened in 1951 at 334 Southwest 26th and a year later, in 1952, the Carnegie Library fell victim to the wrecking ball. The new main library was built on the site of the old one and was opened in 1954.

-Read the Full article at The Oklahoma Metropolitan Library’s Website

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@Raneman
4 years ago

Here is a more current link to the article. The server the link points to above was decommissioned several years ago. http://www.metrolibrary.org/our-history

Karen Douglas
Karen Douglas
8 years ago

Am looking for information on my son's great great grandmother Sophia J Coleman Douglas (Mrs Selwyn Douglas). I understand there was a bust of her at the original library and was wondering if it was still around and if so where it is loated.

Alan Seeger
Alan Seeger
8 years ago

I can't believe they closed the main library. I spent hundreds of lunch hours there when I worked down the street at Southwestern Bell in the 1980s. 🙁

Alice Monroney
Alice Monroney
10 years ago

Note: Thomas P. Mellon and the financier, Andrew Mellon, were in fact first cousins. Thomas was named for Andrew Mellon's father his uncle.

Alice Monroney
Alice Monroney
10 years ago

I am searching information on my great grandfather Thomas Peabody Mellon of OKC and would appreciate any informtion available. My grandmother was Mary Ellen Mellon Monroney. Thank you, Alice Monroney 505-982-1748

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