Early Library History
The library in Dodge City was established sometime prior to 1905, when Dr. C.A. Milton, Judge E.H. Madison, L.J. Pettijohn, and others first discussed the idea of providing the town with a public library building. Previously, a library had been organized in 1885 and set up in the office of the county superintendent.
The Carnegie Library
With the encouragement of the Women's Club, Judge Madison wrote to Andrew Carnegie, who responded on February 1, 1905, stating he would give $7,500 for a library building (an amount later increased to $8,500). C.W. Squires, of Emporia, was chosen as the architect. The contract was given to William Foley; W.B. Rhoads performed the cement work; Sturgeon Brothers provided the brick; and Tieffenbach Brothers were in charge of interior decoration. The library was opened to the public February 1, 1907.
The Ladies Library Assocation, Philomath, Athenum, and Sorosis Study Clubs helped raise money for the first year's budget, with club plays, teas, and lectures. In one instance, the city council issued a license to allow a merry-go-round inside city limits, 25% of the receipts going to the library fund.
Architecture of the Building
The style of the library reflects the sentiment in American architecture at the turn-of-the-century, which was rebelling against the excessiveness of the mid-Victorian era. Designers were encouraged to return to the use of purer, classical elements. Dodge City's Carnegie building features several classical elements. It is virtually symmetrical and features a center dome with large pediments on either side. The door is framed by large ionic pilasters. The simulated stone foundation mocks that found in ancient Roman archaelogical ruins. The upper lights are of stained glass, one of the features which makes the building unique among Carnegie libraries in Kansas.
Later Library History
A 500 square foot addition was begun in 1936, assisted by $5,843.55 of WPA funds. The rectangle one-story addition extends to the west; it was completed in 1937.
By 1965, the building was clearly too small and a $375,000 bond issue for a new building was taken to the voters on May 8 of that year. It failed (a tie vote-- 1,109 votes equally for and against). A second election was held a year later, on April 5, 1966, this time the request being for $198,000, as it was anticipated that federal matching funds would bring the total amount available to $400,000. Again, the measure failed. The library was forced to move to larger quarters and thus abandoned the Carnegie building in 1969, locating in a leased building on First Street for a number of years.
On November 4, 1980, voters approved a $1,935,000 bond issue for a new library building. Located at 1001 Second Avenue, the new structure places emphasis on Kansas stone, contemporary architectural style which reflects the surrounding southwest Kansas environment. The new library was dedicated in 1982.
Present Use of the Carnegie Building
The former Carnegie Library building was sold and, for ten years, was the home of five different clubs and restaurants: The Red Palace, Casey Jones Junction, Carnegie Hall, Opera House 21, and The Library. It was twice saved from the wrecking ball before it was rescued by the community as an arts center. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places early in 1979. It is also one of Dodge City's Historic Landmarks. A $93,000 federal grant was received to help restore the building, assisted with funds from local fund-raising efforts. The building now operates as the Carnegie Center for the Arts.