TEMPLE OF LEARNING
Ballinger was one of 34 communities to receive grant monies for establishing a local library in the late 1800s, courtesy of Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish American who gifted over 90% of his fortune to philanthropic efforts before his death in 1919. Carnegie, a self-made industrialist, believed that it was the duty of the rich upper classes to resolve wealth inequality; a condition occurring in the first part of the industrialized 20th century that Carnegie believed was caused by low wages and withheld capital. According to Carnegie, the rich should distribute their surplus wealth responsibility throughout their lives with an eye towards improving society, thereby helping to create a more civilized, educated world. As a result of Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth” as it was known, 32 libraries were built across Texas. Ballinger’s library, now over one hundred years old, is one of few still operating in its original building.
Before Carnegie’s grants, Texas had few public libraries other than in its largest communities like Houston and San Antonio. The granting program, with its stipulation that communities like Ballinger must be responsible for the maintenance of the library buildings once constructed, helped integrate the idea of education into the rural cultural structure of an early 20th century Texas. Similar in style to many Carnegie Libraries in Texas, Ballinger’s library is a two-story construction of native limestone built in 1909. Local Reverend J. D. Leslie, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, served as supervising architect for the design, built in a vernacular version of the popular Classical Revival style. A white ashlar block portico with double fluted Ionic columns accents the façade, suggesting the entrance to a Greek temple. But rather than housing a statue of an ancient mythological figure inside, the Ballinger library, like all Carnegie libraries, serves as a temple of learning.
Carnegie Library of Ballinger