Carnegie Legacy Home > Library Updates: Renovations & Current Use
ANDERSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY
The Case of the Two Colonels
Andrew Carnegie often related the story of how Col. James Anderson of Allegheny, Pa. opened his small collection of books to working boys of that city, and Carnegie publicly credited him with instilling a love of literature and opportunity for self-education that later enabled Carnegie to build an empire of wealth and power and inspired him to establish an endowment to build libraries throughout the nation.
Curiously enough, there was another Col. Anderson in Carnegieís life a few years later who also afforded him the opportunity to further his self-education. John B. Anderson was a general superintendent on the railway where young Andrew was working at the time; Carnegie reportedly frequented Andersonís library and forged a friendship with him that would remain in Carnegieís memory. Anderson later moved to Kansas and was on the first board of trustees for the College of Emporia. In 1899, his widow corresponded with Carnegie and suggested that he endow a library building on the C of E campus. Carnegie agreed; and in a later letter to Mrs. Anderson, he stated his wish to have an inscription installed on the building that would honor Col. Andersonís making available his library to working boys. The plaque, still on the building, reads:
The John B. Anderson Memorial Library erected A.D. 1901 by Andrew Carnegie in grateful remembrance of Mr. Anderson who opened his own private library for the working boys of Allegheny City, of whom Mr. Carnegie was one.
The "Temple of Knowledge"
After Andrew Carnegieís grant of $30,000 was bestowed on January 3, 1900, Charles Squires of Emporia was engaged to be the architect for the new library building. It was completed in 1901 but was not officially opened until the dedication ceremony held during commencement week (June 4, 1902). Since Leavenworth Public Libraryís dedication was held in May of that year, it received the distinction of being the first Carnegie library in Kansas (however, the Anderson grant was authorized 13 days earlier).
The Anderson Library is a symmetrical domed building with a temple-front motif so favored by U. S. communities of the time. It is 69 feet by 94 feet and is made of cottonwood limestone quarried in Chase County. The exterior columns are each cut from a single piece of limestone. The rear wing (stack area) features a glass floor on its second level, and steel slatted window covers raised and lowered by chains and pulleys which reflected state-of -the-art fireproofing.
The two symmetrical reading rooms to either side of the circulation counter/librarianís station reflect a popular Carnegie interior design. Originally, the small alcoves under the staircases on the main floor housed a washroom on one side and a display rack for current periodical issues on the other.
The twin oak staircases leading to a single landing and then to the second floor are a wood loverís delight with their carved egg-and-dart and bead-and-reel ornamentation. The oval stained glass windows on the landing are intact, but the ones on the second floor were replaced with clear glass at some point. The second floor was known as Missionary Hall and was given to the Presbyterian ladies to furnish it for a missionary museum and meeting hall.
One of the most distinctive and nostalgic features of Anderson Library is the third floor, the wooden dome. For decades, it was a tradition prized by the graduating C of E seniors to be allowed in the dome to write their names. In 1994, to memorialize this tradition, the College of Emporia Alumni Association installed a plaque on the main floor, on the wall by the west staircase:
" CLIMB THE STAIRS TO THE WOODEN DOME AND SIGN YOUR NAME FOR ALL TO SEE. SO THAT THOSE WHO FOLLOW MAY REMEMBER STILL, THE GLORIOUS DAYS OF C of E." -AUTHOR UNKNOWN
The basement floor contained several rooms which were used for storage of older periodicals and obsolete books
A New Life
When the new Laughlin-Lewis Library opened in 1968, Anderson Memorial Library was used to house other departments but began deteriorating badly. The College of Emporia closed in 1974, and the campus was purchased by the Way International, who established The Way College of Emporia and began renovating the campus. Anderson Library was restored to its former beauty, re-dedicated in 1986, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
The Way College closed and sold the campus buildings and contents at auction in 1991. In 1993, the Anderson Library building was given to Emporia State University and has been used since the spring of 1996 to house the ESU Archives.
The public is welcome to view the building or to use the archival collections.
Restoration and Renovation Process, 1974-1986
When The Way International acquired the College of Emporia campus in 1974, Anderson Memorial Library was in a severe state of deterioration. The aged varnish on the oak woodwork was cracked and blackened, some of the stained glass windows had fallen from their frames and lay on the floor, electrical wiring in the basement was dangling, paint on the tin ceiling was peeling, and the interior walls were drastically in need of patching and replastering.
The road behind the library was removed in September 1974, and a fence on the northeast side of the building was razed. A caved-in, eighty-foot length of the steam tunnel from the northeast corner of the library to Allen Gymnasium was filled in, and a patio was planned for the site. Work on it began in September 1975 and the benches were installed in the spring of 1977. A brick walk from the patio to the front of the library was added later. Shrubs in front of the library were planted in 1975. A hedge of shrubs lining the brick walk was landscaped two years later.
The restoration of the library interior began in the autumn of 1974. The clear glass windows in the east and west reading rooms were repaired; and since none of the original stained glass windows on the south side of the east wing remained in their frames, they were taken to Wichita where John Davis, Sr. and his daughter Becky rebuilt them during 1976-1977. These windows were returned and installed during 1979-1980.
The monumental task of stripping, staining and varnishing the oak woodwork on the first and second floors was begun by the Way staff in the autumn of 1975. Carpet on the main level was laid in 1976-1977. Originally reading rooms, the east and west wings on the main floor were once again used for that purpose and for book shelving, and six tables were moved from a dormitory to be used as study tables. The entire building was rewired with new outlets in the stack area and the east and west wings.
The second floor, which had been originally called Missionary Hall in the College of Emporiaís early days, was planned for use by The Way as a reading area/classroom and office. Although the wall dividing the reading room and office was originally installed by the College of Emporia, The Way staff fashioned and installed a chair rail to the added wall to match the others. The reading room was furnished in April 1981.
Basement remodeling began in the autumn of 1976 with its initial use intended for the campus graphics department; several years later, the rest of the basement was finished and used for meeting/study rooms.
Replastering the stack area ceiling was necessary because of roof leaks on the north end of the building. In the east reading room, so much of the brittle, old plaster had to be removed from the north wall that the exterior limestone blocks were visible from the inside.
The library was rededicated on Saturday, April 26th, 1986, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 25, 1987. When the Way International closed its Emporia campus, it sold the buildings and contents in 1991. In the fall of 1993, Anderson Memorial Library was given to Emporia State University and sat unoccupied until the spring of 1996, when the ESU Archives were moved from the Special Collections Department of William Allen White Library.