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Carnegie Libraries


From 1886 to 1919, Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation provided slightly more than $41 million for the construction of public and academic libraries in the United States. Eight Carnegie grants totaling $241,500 were eventually approved for communities in West Virginia: Wheeling—$75,000 (August 12, 1899), Huntington (December 30, 1901), Parkersburg (December 29, 1903), Bethany College— $20,000 (March 1905), Hinton (April 8, 1907), Bluefield—$10,000 (April 8, 1911), Williamson—$10,000 (February 13, 1913), and Charleston—$45,000 (March 14, 1913). Ultimately, however, only four grants totaling $101,500 were accepted. An academic library was built at Bethany College, and public libraries were completed in Hinton, Huntington, and Parkersburg.

The communities rejecting Carnegie grants generally did so because they could not raise the 10 percent annual maintenance fee required by Carnegie or could not secure suitable building sites. This was the situation with both Bluefield and Williamson. However, Charleston community leaders believed the city ‘‘should have a more commodious library than $45,000 would erect.’’ A subsequent bond proposal in 1915 to raise more dollars failed after Carnegie refused to modify the award.

The most acrid refusal of an approved Carnegie grant came from Wheeling, where labor leaders led the defeat of a municipal bond levy stating that Wheeling was ‘‘one place on this great green planet where Andrew Carnegie can’t get a monument with his money.’’ Their opposition stemmed from steelworkers’ deaths during the 1892 strike at Carnegie’s Homestead, Pennsylvania, mill.

All the Carnegie library buildings in West Virginia remain intact, but none currently serves as a library.

Written by Charles A. Julian


  1. Javersak, David T. One Place on this Great Green Planet Where Andrew Carnegie Can't Get a Monument with his Money. West Virginia History, (Fall 1979).

  2. Julian, Charles A. "An Analysis of the Historical Growth and Development of the West Virginia State Library Association." Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 1990.