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Mr. Carnegie Answers Plea For Help

On August 27, 1901, Miss Fatout assisted Mr. Frank L. Saylor, secretary of the library association, in composing a letter to Mr. Andrew Carnegie, asking for his help in establishing a building fund. This letter reads as follows:
Elwood, Ind. Aug. 27, 1901
Mrs. Andrew Carnegie
Skibo Castle, Scotland

My Dear Sir,

In behalf of the Board of Directors of the Elwood Library Association, I beg to present to you some facts concerning our library, its past history and its present condition in order to solicit your interest in our behalf, if you deem us worthy of such, after you have heard our situation.

In January 1899, some public-spirited citizens called three mass meetings for the purpose of establishing a public library. These meetings resulted in a general canvas for subscriptions and money. When we had $1200 we fitted up an old store room, bought some eight or nine hundred volumes, classified and catalogued them and on May 1, ’99 opened our library to the public. On account of local prejudice to an out of town librarian, we were compelled to hire a librarian who had never been inside of a library. Every step we took was with difficulty. Finally, the city council came to our rescue, levied a tax of four mills on the dollar, and gave us the use of a small room in the new city building. By means of entertainments, private donations of books and money, we have at present 2700 volumes on our shelves. Through persistent effort we have secured the services of a trained librarian.

Public interest is coming so rapidly that in a few months our quarters will be wholly inadequate and as we have no wealthy citizens who can furnish us a building, we are writing to ask if your generosity can help us to secure one. As you doubtless know, Elwood has a population of almost 13,000 made up chiefly of workmen in the various glass factories and American Tin Plate mills. Hundreds of these men are here in boarding houses, away from home and family and to these especially, this library with its reading room is a great benefit. After six o’clock all stores are…”

The letter ends there as, unfortunately, the last page is missing.

The response from Mr. Carnegie is from his first letter, dated Oct. 4,’01:
Mrs. Frank L. Saylor, Elwood, Ind.
Skibo Castle, Ardgay, N. B.


Yours of the 27th Aug. recd. Mr. Carnegie will provide twenty five thousand dollars for a free public library building for Elwood, if the town will furnish a suitable site and pledge itself to support the library at cost of not less that twenty five hundred dollars a year. Respectfully, Jas. Bertram, P. Secy”

Local historians may wish to know that, later, in a June, 1918 issue of the Elwood Call-Leader, an article reported that Mrs. Anna Saylor (Mrs. Frank L. Saylor), became a candidate for office in the general assembly of the California legislature, for the 41st district at Berkeley, California.

The city council agreed to the annual pledge of $2500 in support and found a fine building site just down the street from the city hall at East Church and Wayne streets. The streets are now known to us as North A and 16th streets. According to the warranty deed, dated April 17, 1902, the council paid $3,000 for Lot #7 in Block #1 of the original town plat of Quincy, now city of Elwood, from the heirs of William H. Smith.

The first important donation to the library was $1,000 given by the American Tin Plate Company in 1901. In 1903, an endowment fund of $500 by Mrs. Hannah B. Leeds created the support of the Men’s Room in the library. Mr. Warner M. Leeds donated $25 annually, in memory of his mother, for the purchase of reference books. A gift of $100 by G. G. Reed was made in 1905.

Construction on the new library began in 1903, the same year the natural gas supply was depleted and Elwood’s gas boom ended. In July 1903, Mrs. Saylor was instructed to make an appeal to Mr. Carnegie for an extra $5,000 to complete the building and furnishings. In August, she reported Mr. Carnegie had agreed to the extra money provided that the city council would increase the annual tax levy to $3,000. The council approved, making the total cost of $30,000 for the city’s fine, new library.

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Andrew Carnegie Building-“A Marvel of Beauty”

The newspaper headlines read “A Marvel of Beauty”. “The building is an impressive example of the Carnegie libraries in its Neo-classical Revival design. The main floor has two brick fireplaces with oak mantles and brick chimneys visible to the ceilings. Mosaic tiling decorates the flooring in front of both. Large iron bookcases are located behind the octagonal oak circulation desk. This area is framed by two wooden arches. There are six oak columns topped with ionic capitals. The vaulted ceiling has ornamental plaster cornice work, completing each area. The center ceiling directly behind the circulation desk contains a deep rectangular opening with the decorative plaster cornice molding and a skylight. Dozens of beautiful chandeliers are found all over the building. The furniture is all rich and massive, solid oak.On June 1, 1904, the new building was dedicated and a grand opening ceremony held. The library board consisted of : C. W. Bennett, president, Mrs. John Rodefer, Mrs. Frank Saylor, J. A. Hunter, Mrs. Alonzo Moffett and John H. Elliott. Nellie B. Fatout was librarian and Clare Lynch, her assistant.

To the right of the circulation desk is the main reading room with accommodations for a hundred people. To the left is the children’s reading room, of the same size, with juvenile books arranged in stacks around the wall. The west side of the building houses administrative offices and staff work rooms. The cataloguing room is connected to the unpacking room below by a book lift.

In the west side of the basement is an auditorium that will seat almost three hundred people comfortably. A reading and smoking room for men is prepared where the daily papers will be on file. Games of chess and checkers will be available. In the northeast corner is a model club room with an unusual decorative iron fireplace and will doubtless be rented by the various literary clubs of the city for meetings.”