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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Margaret Henderson Floyd's Book Highlights Carnegie Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, March 05, 2006

Margaret Henderson Floyd is the author of a book about the architectural firm that designed our Main Library building between 1899-1902. Her book is, "Architecture after Richardson---Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow in Boston and Pittsburgh," which was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1994.

 I recently learned that Ms. Floyd has died.  She leaves a wonderful volume of research and work for us to enjoy for years. She was a Professor in the Department of Art and History at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. During the years of study that Ms. Floyd did in researching the book, she contacted me for information about our library building.   In addition, she delightfully shared information that her research uncovered even before the book was published.

Longfellow, Alden, and Harlow was an architectural firm located in Boston in the 1880s consisting of young men schooled in the tradition of the great architect of the day, H.H. Richardson. In 1886, Alden and Harlow departed for Pittsburgh, with Alexander Wadsworth Longfellow (Henry Wadsworth's nephew) remaining in Boston.

When Andrew Carnegie made his grant to Steubenville for a new library in 1899, Alden and Harlow had already designed several Pittsburgh area Carnegie Libraries. Frank Alden seemed to be the designer of our building.  He had a short timetable for the design, and drew upon previous designs to complete his work. Margaret Floyd told us that the Oakmont Carnegie Library near Pittsburgh is a smaller version of our building, and a photo certainly confirms that information.

Harlow also used aspects of his 1888 Cambridge, Mass. City Hall, including the tower and window treatment on the Steubenville Library. She reported that the Steubenville Library was the only building of Alden and Harlow to have a tower after the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh lost its towers in a 1907 renovation. The firm of Alden and Harlow had offices on the top floor of the Vandegrift Building, but unfortunately most of the company records were not retained.

In her research, she was forced to use secondary sources for Alden and Harlow records, including the "Pittsburgh Architectural Club" booklet that contains drawings of the Steubenville Library. Records at the Carnegie Foundation are generally correspondence between cities wanting Carnegie Libraries and Andrew Carnegie himself. Regardless, Margaret Floyd produced a marvelous book with more than 500 pages of well-researched information that benefits many libraries nationwide.

Sadly, Frank Alden died in 1908 at age 48 ending a career that produced architectural designs all around western Pennsylvania. A.W. Longfellow and Alfred Harlow continued their work for another 20 years, with the last design being a house in Pittsburgh, completed in 1929. Their only other Ohio design is the Salem Carnegie Library, completed in 1904.  Its Jeffersonian detail is a completely different style from the Steubenville Library.

Margaret Floyd felt that we had a real jewel with our Carnegie Building.  She hoped that some day the top of the tower, removed in 1956, could be restored.  She also hoped that the original ceilings of the Reading Rooms, lowered in 1960, could be restored to their luster and height. Costs and practicality may prevent those dreams from becoming reality, but we still have much to enjoy with our Carnegie Building.