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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.

Construction of Carnegie Building

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 27, 2019


We are in the home stretch of the construction of the ADA Main Library Project, as all the work moves inside the building, and things become more complex as the interior is completed.


I am in the home stretch of my library career, and it appears that both will come to an end at the same time.


The construction work that took place 118 years ago on the Carnegie building has some similarities as well as major differences, and we have a binder full of papers relating to the 1900-1902 construction period.


A letter dated Aug 2, 1900 from George W. McCook and W.H. McClinton of the library board to architects Alden and Harlow of Pittsburgh stated that, “It is being understood that for the gross sum of sixty thousand dollars in round numbers, you guarantee to turn the building over to us complete in every detail, except for the clock in the tower and the grading of the grounds.”


That appears to be the entire contract for the building, compared to the hundreds of papers in the contract and agreements for the current building.


Of course the 1900 letter turned out to be incorrect, as the building cost $ 80,000 total by the time all was completed and the building opened to the public.


The library board wrote a letter thanking Mr. Carnegie for his donation for the new library, but also inquired if he would consider a second donation:


“We do this with much hesitation, fully realizing the delicate nature of the suggestion we make as to whether you have reached the limit of the appropriation you desire to make for Steubenville.”


The board suggested another $ 25,000 ---  Mr. Carnegie sent $ 12,000.


As it turns out, following letters expressed the additions to the letter that followed.


Feb 25, 1901 an addition of $ 450 was made for the hardware for the building from Joseph Woodwall & Co.


May 5, 1901 found a contract for $ 550 to add a 10 inch sewer line from the library down to S. 3rd Street, that line still in service for the library as of 2019.


Before the building opened, the library board acquired insurance for the building from the Associated Factory Mutual insurance company of New England with no cost listed.


The Library Bureau Corp. provided lots of library supplies for the era, from bookends to library cards and lots of other products needed to open a library.


The new Carnegie building opened to the public on March 12, 1902, but the bills and invoices continued for nearly a year afterwards.


Some things had to be corrected, and other items were not paid for until correct.


The Floto Bros. were contacted to make some repairs and corrections to the stonework on the building before the last $ 100 was paid “on the account.”


Collections of books from the former City Library Association were purchased for the sum of $ 175, as well as new books from New York publishers and the cost of the railroad transportation and delivery to the library.


That’s when the deficiency of having no delivery entrance and no “lift” from the basement to the main floor was found.


The new librarian arrived in the city at the end of 1901 to prepare for the library opening.


Miss Ellen Summers Wilson, who had worked for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in the Wylie Ave. Branch and the West End Branch, made the move to Steubenville to open the new library.


It had to be a stressful time for members of the library board, although except for one person who died before the building opened, they all remained to serve at least a dozen years, with one remaining until 1929.


The sad story of Miss Wilson ended in Nov 1904 when she died at the age of 31, and is buried in the cemetery in Albany, NY.