Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist and one of the country’s most important philanthropists of the 19th century, believed public libraries provided a pathway to knowledge and self-improvement. In fact, Carnegie’s belief in the role of the public library was so profound that he provided funding for 2,509 public libraries across the U.S., Canada, the British Isles, Australia, and the Caribbean during the 1800s and early 1900s.
Carnegie’s generosity extended to Texas where 32 public library buildings were constructed between 1898 and 1917. Communities large and small raised the required 10 percent local match for the grant and provided suitable building sites to secure one of these architectural jewels. Varied architectural styles including Classical Revival and Beaux Arts, executed in brick or stone were meant to impress those walking up the prominent entrance steps.
Today, many of the Texas libraries have been repurposed as museums, offices, or cultural centers, some were destroyed, and a few can still be experienced as public libraries such as those in Franklin, Ballinger, Jefferson, and Tyler.