Carnegie Library

During December 1901, library’s chairman Charles J. Bronston solicited Andrew Carnegie for a donation for a new library.  Carnegie was a Pittsburg steel magnate and philanthropist[1].  On January 20, 1902, Carnegie agreed to fund the construction of a new library building in Lexington.  He agreed to donate $50,000 towards the cost, subject to the city of Lexington agreeing to providing the site and appropriating annually the sum of $5,000 for the support of this institution.  Later, he agreed to raise his donation to $60,000, when the Fiscal Court of Fayette County agreeing to appropriate $1,000 annually.[i]  Appendix L - Carnegie Letters.

On January 21, 1902, the Ways and Means Committee of the General Council approval a perpetual appropriation of $5,000 to fund the Lexington Public Library.  The next week, the full council approved the appropriation.[ii]

Gratz Park Lot:

In April 1902, the library selected the lower third of Gratz Park[2] as the site for the new building.  Gratz Park was controlled jointly Kentucky State College and Transylvania University[3].  Both universities agreed to sell the lot for $9,000.  To obtain clear title, the three boards agreed to “submitted to the courts for adjudication <the sale> and <have> the title to the property thus confirmed by judicial process.”[iii]

During May 1902, Judge Watts Parker, of the Fayette Circuit Court, issued an order clearing the title.  Major Cabell Bullock, one of the trustees of Transylvania, who opposed the sale, failed to have the sale cancelled.  In early June 1902, the Court of Appeals also ruled in favor of the library.[iv]


Andrew Carnegie   <LPL>

In June 1902, Andrew Carnegie received a “confidential letter purported to have been written by a city official” in Scotland.  The letter “alleged that no title could possibly be made to the part and that a library built upon it could not be controlled by the library trustees.”  Bronston was able to satisfy Carnegie’s private secretary regarding the title.[v]

Library Designs:

During June 1902, the directors met to review plans submitted by six architects; which were Copeland & Coyle of New York, des Jardines & Haywood of Cincinnati, Frank Milburn of Columbia, South Carolina, Patton & Miller of Chicago (with J. R. Scott of Lexington), H. W. Aldenburg of Lexington and Herman L. Rowe of Lexington.  After reviewing the plans, Rowe’s design was selected.[vi]

Engraving of Proposed Library

His design called for a two story, Renaissance style library, of Belfort cut stone, with four Corinthian columns and pediment reliefs over the front entrance.  The building was fireproof, built of steel and brick construction, with a full basement.  On the first floor, were an open stack room (16 by 22 feet) for magazines, newspapers and other reading materials, a library room (16 by 22 feet) and colored reading room.  In addition, the east wing contained a two story, stack room (27 by 50 feet), with the capacity of 50,000 books.  On the second floor, there was a lecture hall (32 by 48 feet), with seating capacity of 300, a children’s reading room (27 by 50 feet), an art room (27 by 50 feet), a trustee’s room and ladies toilet rooms.[vii]


Lexington Library Company:

On July 1, 1902 the library company donated $9,000 for the purchase of a portion of Gratz Park from Transylvania.  The purchase was with a conditional deed[4] conveying same that in case it should cease in used as a free public library, that said lot of ground should revert to Kentucky University <Transylvania University>.”[viii]

In addition, on July 12, 1902, the library company donated[5] “all of its books, pamphlets, furniture and possessions” and deeded its building at the corner of Church and Market Streets to the Lexington Public Library.  The proceeds for the sale of the building and fixtures[6] was $9,975, which were specified that the funds “shall be invested in some safe securities, or real estate, and the income there from be used in purchasing books, from time to time.”[ix]

In July 1902, the city council agreed to appropriate an addition $1,000 for the library, for a total of $6,000.  The county court had agreed to appropriate $1,000 for the library, but Carnegie only counted city appropriates.  Therefore, the city agreed to allocate the $1,000, which was funded from the county budget.  On August 9, 1902, the city passed Ordinance No. 1362 which approved the proposed plan and future appropriations.[x]

During October 1902, the library let contracts for the building, including:





J. E. Fitzgerald

$     705


Thomas Sheehan


Iron Work & Fireproofing

L. Schreiber & Sons



S. R. Van Dyke



Henry Tandy


Tin, Galvanized Iron & Slate

W. J. Houlihan & Bro.


Marble & Tile

Marbleithic Company


Steel Ceilings

Kinnear & Cager Company


Painting & Glazing

Power & Company



Frank Corbin



J. H. Staples



Thomas Ahearn



H. M. Frazier





In addition, the library received the first $5,000 of the $60,000 fund set by Andrew Carnegie during the month. [xi]

In March 1903, it was reported that the foundation was nearing completion.[xii]


On June 8, 1903, the cornerstone of the library was laid at a public ceremony.  The speakers were Mayor Henry T. Duncan, President Burris A. Jenkins of Kentucky <Transylvania> University and Colonel W. C. P. Breckinridge.  The cornerstone was located in the northeast corner and included the inscription “Erected 1903.”  Inside was a galvanized iron box, which contained a copy of the deed, copies of the local newspapers and other local interest items.[xiii]

However, construction was delay until late July 1903, because of a strike in the Indiana stone quarries.  As soon as the strike was settled, the cut stone arrived and construction restarted. [xiv]

In 1904, Annie G. Clay was appointed to the board.[xv]

On May 3, 1905, the library partly closes the Church Street building in preparation of the move.  The library remained open for reference until 6 pm.  In addition, patrons could return books.[xvi]

In early June 1905, Strauss-Mill Company of Cleveland began installing the oak book cases, tables, chairs and other fixtures.[xvii]  On June 12, 1905 the library published new rules of operations (see Appendix M – Rules of Public Library).

On June 14, 1905, the library opened to the public at 9 am.  However, the electric lights were not installed and the library closed at dusk.  The lights were finally installed until early August.  On August 15, 1905, the library hours were extended from 9 am to 9 pm, except Sundays.  The children’s room was opened from 9 am to 3 pm.[xviii]

Periodical Room, circa 1906   <LPL>

Librarian’s Desk on First Floor    <LPL>

Reading Room, circa 1906   <LPL>

Librarian’s Office, circa 1906   <LPL>

Children’s story hour is instituted on November 1, 1906.[xix]

Library Stations:

In July 1907, Mary K. Bullett announced plans to experiment with circulating libraries (known as library stations) in outlying sections of the city.  Each station was stocked with 100 popular volumes of fiction and non-fiction works, which was changed monthly.  Patrons could check out and return books at either the main library or the stations.  Bullitt proposed four locations - South Broadway Park, Woodland, Arlington and Forest Hill sections.  At the time, the primary mode of transportation was the street car lines. [xx]

In September 1907 the first station was opened on Columbia Avenue, in the Woodland / Clifton Heights area.  It was located in the residence of Arline Cruickshank, who volunteered as the librarian.  The library prepared special catalogs, including juvenile books, for patrons to order books from the main facility.  This location proved so successful that the initial inventory had to be restock twice in the first month.[xxi]

On September 23, 1907, the second station was opened in the Kahn’s Grocery, at the corner of Georgetown and Hickory Streets.  The station was in charge of David Kahn, the owner’s son.  During October 1907, the third location was opened in Arlington area, at 256 Loudon Avenue, in charge of Irene C. DeMoss.[xxii]

These stations operated until around the end of 1908, when it appears budget and logistic problems forced them to close.

In April 1909, the mayor appointed Charles N. Manning to replace the deceased Charles J. Bronston.[xxiii]

At the end of 1910, the library collection was 24,775 books.  The members of the board were Charles N. Manning (President), Annie G. Clay (Vice President), James M. Duff (Secretary/Treasurer), Ida W. Harrison and Lucy Collier.  In April 1911, Richard T. Anderson, of the Fayette National Bank, was appointed to the board after the death of Duff.  In August 1913, J. V. Stallard replaced Alpha Hubbard on the board.  In 1914, Dr. Thomas B. McCartney replaced Manning and Judge Samuel M. Wilson replaced Collier.  In January 1915, Manning was reappointed to replace Anderson.[xxiv]

On July 5, 1911, Mary K. Bullett died after a short illness.  She was replaced on July 12, 1911 by Florence Dillard, who was the Children’s Librarian since 1900.[xxv]  During 1911 circulation was 81,553.[xxvi]

In January 1914, the library begins issuing library cards for its patrons.[xxvii]

On February 22, 1916, the Lexington Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy donated a portrait of James Lane Allen.

In 1916, the Board of Trustees were Annie G. Clay (President), Judge Samuel M. Wilson (Vice President), Dr. Thomas B. McCartney (Secretary), Ida W. Harrison (Treasurer) and Charles N. Manning.[xxviii]

For Year Ending December 31, 1916





City of Lexington




Fayette County


Janitor's Service


Police Court Fines


Books & Periodicals


Book Fines, etc.















Total Volumes





First World War:

During June 1917, Camp Stanley was established on Versailles Pike, about three miles from Lexington.  The camp was the mustering camp for the 2nd and 3rd Regiments of the Kentucky National Guard during the First World War.  The library established a branch in a tent at the camp to provide the soldiers with books, magazines and phonographic records.  The camp closed in October 1917, when the units were shipped to Mississippi and then to France.[xxix]

In February and March 1918, a series of public lectures were held at the Library concerning the war.  These included Dr. E. Y. Mullins speaking on “America Fighting for Great Ideal,” Dr. Frank L. McVey on “Outlook for Peace” and Hubert de Waegman on “Kulture of the Huns.”[xxx] In March 1918, Florence Dillard also established and headed the Soldiers & Sailors Book Campaign in Lexington to secure books for the soldiers in France.  By March 1919, 11,466 books were sent to army camps by the campaign.[xxxi]

During August 1919, the library was closed during Andrew Carnegie’s funeral and his portrait was draped in black for a period of thirty days. [xxxii]

Funding Proposal:

In November 1919, Charles N. Manning proposed to the Rotary Club that the funding should be raised to $10,000 per year.  Dr. C. E. Rush, of Indianapolis, presented a comparison that indicated the Lexington was “not keeping step with progressive communities of other states in making use of the public library.”  The funding had remained unchanged over the past 15 years, with $6,000 appropriated and one-half of the police court fines.  Manning indicated that the fines had been greatly reduced since prohibition went into effect.  Nothing came of this proposal as the appropriations remained the same until 1935, when it was reduced.[xxxiii]


In February 1920, Florence Dillard attempted to get the City Council to increase the annual appropriate for the 1920 budget.  The library’s appropriation was about $7,500; from city and county appropriations of $5,000 and $1,000, respectively, with about $1,500 for police court fines.  This sum was inadequate to cover the increase in the cost of books, supplies and salaries during the First World War.  In addition, the fines from police court decrease because of Prohibition.[xxxiv]

In March 1920, Charles H. Berryman[7] formed a committee of 18 businessmen to raise a $100,000 endowment for the public library.    They estimated that the endowment would generate addition income of $5,000 annually.  The committee indicated that there would not be a campaign and large dollars would be solicited privately.  This committee included Berryman (Chairman), Charles N. Manning, Ernest B. Ellis, Richard T. Anderson, Joseph LeCompte, J. Edward Bassett, John G. Stoll, Silas Mason, James B. Hall, Frank B. Jones, Samuel H. Halley, Judge Charles Kerr, Waller B. Hunt, Dr. David Barrow, Samuel M. Wilson and George K. Graves.[xxxv]

In March 1920, Ida W. Harrison resigned as a trustee after she was elected to the Lexington Board of Education.  Mayor Thomas C. Bradley appointed Edna Roberts to the vacancy.[xxxvi]

During 1920, the library had receipts of $12,177.17, with expenditures of $11,171.37, leaving a surplus of $1,005.80.  Expenditures included $2,629.41 for books, $348.26 in periodicals and $511.85 for binding.  During the year a total of 69,908 books circulated, including 663 on philosophy, 668 on religion, 2,388 on sociology, 29 on philology, 714 on science, 919 in useful arts, 966 on general works, 836 on fine arts, 3,402 on literature and 56,214 of fiction.  The library contained 35,347 volumes, an increase of 564 from 34,783 from the prior year.  Circulation figures for the prior ten years were:
























In addition, the library received the Joseph H. Bush collection of 13 paintings to form the beginnings of an art gallery.  The paintings were donated by Captain Thomas J. Bush and Nannie Bush, the artist’s nephew and niece.[xxxvii]

Book Wagon:

During March 1921, it was proposed that a County Library be established, which would be supported by a special tax or appropriation from the Fiscal County.  This library would have branches located in schools, churches, corner stores and homes to cover the rural areas.  These locations would be serviced by book wagons, lined with shelving for books.  This library would work in concert with the public library.  This idea was not implemented due to financial opposition from the Fiscal Court.[xxxviii]

During January 1935 Florence Dillard died suddenly and in February 1935, Carrie L. Hunt was appointed as Librarian.  She had served as Circulation Librarian since at least 1916.[xxxix]

In 1935, and again in 1937, during the Great Depression, the city reduced it appropriation from $5,000 to $2,500, in violation of the 1902 ordinance and agreement.[xl]

During January 1936, Charles N. Manning was president, with William H. Townsend as secretary and Judge Samuel M. Wilson treasurer of the library.  The other trustees were Minnie P. Bullock and Margaret King.  In addition, Mayor Charles R. Thompson and County Judge W. E. Nicolas were ex-officio members.  Carrie L. Hunt was librarian, with Sallie Bullock Cave and G. Glenn Clift as assistant librarians.[xli] 

During 1937, the library received $15,001.71 in revenue, with $13,876.49 in expenditures and a surplus of $1,125.22.  The library possessed 44,343 volumes and circulation was 67,609 volumes.[xlii]

Circulating Library:

In August 1938, the Fayette Community Council established five circulating libraries for the rural residents of Fayette County.  Each library consisted of trailer, where the books were stored.  The books were supplied by the Lexington Public Library, the trailers were built by the Fayette County Public Schools and the Work Progress Administration provided the library director and his assistants.  The first four were located at David’s Fork Baptist Church on Cleveland Pike, Durbin’s Baptist Church on Richmond Pike and Shelby School on Jacks Creek Pike.[xliii]

Circulating Library Trailer, 1938   <LH>

During the first six months of service these libraries circulated 21,217 books and magazines.  The number of locations had grown to ten, including the Reform School at Greendale.  The circulating library was funded by a $14,000 federal grant and had a payroll of 22.[xliv]


[1] In 1901, Carnegie began using the proceeds from the sale of his steel concern to fund libraries, schools and universities across the United States, Canada and Britain.  By the time of his death during 1919, he had given away the bulk of his half billion dollar fortune.

[2] 180 feet on Second Street and extending back of equal width, between Mill and Market Streets.

[3] In January 1780, “Out Lot No. 6” was deeded to William Steele by the Trustees of the City of Lexington.  On April 17, 1788 and March 24, 1792, the lot was sold to William Mitchell and David Worley (then to Henry Marshall), respectively.  In March 1792, the lot was sold to William Morton, Daniel Weisiger, John Coleman, James Moore and John Hawkins acting for Transylvania Company.

On October 10, 1792, the Transylvania Company deeded to out lot to Transylvania Seminary (which was being relocated from Danville), with the condition that it be the permanent seat of the seminary.  In December 1807, by quick claim deed ownership was confirmed to the Trustees of Transylvania University, without the permanent seat condition.

During July 1844, the portion west of Mill Street was sold to Thomas January for $4,000.  The next day, John McMurtry filed a lien against the property for a judgment against the university of $10,993.33.  At a public sale in September 1844, McMurtry purchased the lot for $3,000.  The next year, the levy and sale were set aside by the court.

In 1865, Kentucky University (forerunner of the University of Kentucky) and Transylvania University merged.  In 1878, the state college was separated and relocated to its present campus.  Due to the merger clear title was clouded.

[4] During the early 1990s, the university agreed to eliminate this condition when the new Central Library was in the planning stages.

[5] “In consideration of all of which the city of Lexington entered into a compact with the Lexington Library Company binding itself to that company to perpetually maintain a library in the Carnegie building; or, failing in which, the said city of Lexington is to return to the Lexington Library Company the sum of $9,000 in cash with interest; also a just valuation of the books, furniture, etc. and for the building on Church and Market streets.”

[6] In 1916, with the final payment from the sale of the property was collected, the fund investments were $500 Blue Grass Traction Company first mortgage 5% bonds, $2,500 Georgetown & Lexington Traction Company first mortgage 5% bonds, $3,000 Lexington Hydraulic & Manufacturing Company first mortgage 5% bonds and $2,000 Fayette County 4 ½ % Road Bonds, due May 1, 1921.

[7] Berryman was a local businessman who oversaw the investments of James Ben Ali Haggin in Lexington, including Elmendorf Farm on Paris Pike.


[i] Lexington Leader, January 20, 1902, page 1, columns 1-4 and Lexington Herald, January 21, 1902, page 1, column 2.

[ii] Lexington Leader, January 21, 1902, page 1, column 3.

[iii] Lexington Leader, April 3, 1902, page 1, column 7, April 4, 1902, page 6, column 4, April 6, 1902, page 6, column 4, April 9, 1902, page 3, column 7, April 13, 1902, page 5, column 3, April 15, 1902, page 1, column 7, April 23, 1902, page 5, column 7, April 26, 1902, page 5, column 5 and April 30, 1902, page 5, column 5 and Lexington Herald, April 4, 1902, page 3, column 1, April 5, 1902, page 1, column 6, April 9, 1902, page 4, column 3, April 13, 1902, page 1, column 6 and April 24, 1902, page 5, column 5.

[iv] Lexington Leader, May 5, 1902, page 1, column 3, May 6, 1905, page 1, columns 1-3 and May 7, 1905, page 1, column 1 and Lexington Herald, May 7, 1902, page 5, column 1, May 8, 1902, page 3, column 2 and June 7, 1902, page 1, column 3.

[v] Lexington Herald, June 25, 1902, page 3, column 5.

[vi] Lexington Herald, June 22, 1902, page 5, column 3 and June 25, 1902, page 2, column 4.

[vii] Lexington Herald, June 22, 1902, page 5, column 3 and June 25, 1902, page 2, column 4.

[viii] Fayette County Deed Book 127, page 255 and Wilson, pages 4-6.

[ix] Fayette County Deed Book 127, pages 487 and Wilson, pages 4-6.

[x] Lexington Herald, July 4, 1902, page 1, column 3 and Wilson, page 6.

[xi] Lexington Herald, October 12, 1902, page 5, column 1 and October 22, 1902, page 5, column 2.

[xii] Lexington Herald, March 2, 1903, page 3, column 5.

[xiii] Lexington Leader, June 7, 1903, page 2, column2 and June 8, 1903, page 1, columns 5-6.

[xiv] Lexington Herald, July 26, 1903, section 1, page 3, column 5.

[xv] Lexington Herald, January 3, 1904, page 3, column 2.

[xvi] Lexington Leader, May 2, 1905, page 3, column 7.

[xvii] Lexington Leader, June 7, 1905, page 1, column 3.

[xviii] Lexington Herald, June 13, 1905, page 8, column 4 and Lexington Leader, June 15, 1905, page 1, column 4, June 18, 1905, section 1, page 2, column 5 and August 15, 1905, page 7, column 6.

[xix] Library Timeline.

[xx] Lexington Leader, July 31, 1907, page 9, columns 1-2.

[xxi] Lexington Leader, September 8, 1907, page 3, columns 2-3 and September 24, 1907, page 7, column 5 and Lexington Herald, September 8, 1907, page 4, column 6.

[xxii] Lexington Leader, September 24, 1907, page 7, column 5, November 10, 1907, page 14, column 4 and August 5, 1908, page 12, column 6 and Lexington Herald, September 25, 1907, page 10, column 5.

[xxiii] Lexington Leader, April 22, 1909, page 10, column 5.

[xxiv] Lexington Leader, December 28, 1910, page 1, column 1, January 1, 1911, page 8, column 4, April 4, 1911, page 1, column 4, July 22, 1913, page 1, column 2 and January 9, 1914, page 8, column 5 and Handbook of Kentucky Libraries, 1911, pages 21-23.

[xxv] Lexington Leader, July 5, 1911, page 1, column 5, July 12, 1911, page 1, column 7, July 13, 1911, page 3, column 4 and Lexington Herald July 13, 1911, page 12, column 2

[xxvi] Kentucky Library Commission, First Biennial Report, page 53 and hand written notes in Kentucky Room.

[xxvii] Lexington Leader, December 28, 1913, section 2, page 6, columns 6-7.

[xxviii] Seventeenth Annual Report.

[xxix] Lexington Herald, July 31, 1917, page 8, column 1, August 5, 1917 and August 26, 1917, Magazine section, pages 1-2.

[xxx] Lexington Herald, February 26, 1918, page 4, column 5, March 3, 1918, page 1, column 3 and March 10, 1918, page 1, column 1.

[xxxi] Lexington Herald, March 10, 1918, page 8 and March 14, 1919, page 14, column 4.

[xxxii] Notes for James Lee speech, October 2007.

[xxxiii] Lexington Herald, November 14, 1919, page 20, column 1.

[xxxiv] Lexington Herald, March 24, 1920, page 12, column 2.

[xxxv] Lexington Herald, March 24, 1920, page 12, column 2.

[xxxvi] Lexington Herald, March 9, 1920, page 12, column 4 and March 13, 1920, page 8, column 2 and Lexington Leader, March 12, 1920, page 6, columns 3-5.

[xxxvii] Lexington Herald, February 17 1921, page 14, column 2.

[xxxviii] Lexington Herald, March 21, 1921, page 8, column 1.

[xxxix] Lexington Leader, January 28, 1936, page 1, column 3 and Lexington Herald, January 28, 1935, page 1, column 7.

[xl] Wilson, pages 6-7.

[xli] Lexington Herald, January 19, 1936, page 12, column 6.

[xlii] Lexington Herald, January 16, 1938, page 32, column 1.

[xliii] Lexington Herald, August 21, 1938, page 2, column 3.

[xliv] Lexington Herald, March 12, 1939, page 28, columns 1-7.

William M. Ambrose, Lexington Public Library - Founded 1795 / Free 1898, Limestone Press, Lexington, 2012.

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