Sanpete County Libraries Double as ‘History Classrooms’ – Press Release 10/17/2003

DATE 10/17/2003 2:55 PM

This is part of an occasional series by the Sanpete Country Travel and Utah Heritage Highway 89 Alliance on the people and places along U.S. Highway 89.

Sanpete County Libraries Double as ‘History Classrooms’

Visiting a local Sanpete County library can be an educational experience in many ways, starting by simply taking a good look at the building itself.Sanpete County is home to three of Utah’s remaining 17 Carnegie Libraries, in Mt. Pleasant, Ephraim and Manti. All of the libraries were constructed early in the 20th Century as part of a nationwide and even worldwide effort by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to establish public libraries.

Each of Sanpete County’s Carnegie libraries provides a unique lesson in history. “The libraries all have an important historical role to play in their respective communities, as the town s only library in many cases and for their ties to the Carnegie program and to the architectural style of the period,” says Roger Roper, an architect with the Utah Division of State History.

Carnegie gave away tens of millions of dollars for the construction of libraries across the country, with the only condition being that the community would provide books and operational support. There were more than 1,650 Carnegie libraries built in the Untied States, including 23 in Utah constructed over a 17-year period, as well as some 650 in Great Britain and Ireland, 156 in Canada, and a handful in places like New Zealand, the West Indies and Fiji. The first library was built in Scotland in 1881.

In many small towns, the Carnegie Library was the most important piece of great architecture and often established standards of operation and building design that were used for many years in the construction of libraries in other communities. Most were inspired by the popular style of the period, with some including stained or leaded glass windows, high ceilings, and graceful woodwork. Others reflected regional style, such as the clean and lean Prairie School. The Prairie School style was made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright, Roper says. “Mt. Pleasant’s library is a classic Prairie School design, one of three such libraries in the state, with Mt. Pleasant’s being at the top of the list.” Mt. Pleasant’s library was built in 1917 and designed by the Salt Lake City architecture firm of Ware & Treganza. “It was one of the most well-known architecture firms of the 20th century,” Roper says.

Likewise, the Manti Library was designed by Watkins and Birch, a Provo-based architectural firm that also designed several other library buildings. The Ephraim library was built in 1914 and 1915. “The Ephraim and Manti libraries both represent the classic architectural style that was popular among Carnegie libraries back then,” Roper says. “They are rectangular in shape with symmetrical doors and windows. Most of the libraries were set up a half storey and would have stairs leading up to the door from the street.”

About 20 years ago, there was a statewide effort to place all of Utah’s Carnegie Libraries on the National Register of Historic Places. Since that time, no Carnegie libraries have been torn down. “They are still being used as libraries,” Roper says, adding some have been expanded and modified over the years to include access ramps for the disabled. “They were all very well-built structures and have served their purpose well.”

For more information Contact:Monte Bona
Sanpete County Travel and Heritage Council
(435) 462-2502


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