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History At The Carnegie

October 21, 2012, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

History At The Carnegie

A historic hub of Sioux Falls city government is undergoing a makeover.  A $320-thousand renovation to the downtown Carnegie Town Hall is on pace for completion next month.  The building has served many purposes during its 110 years, beginning as a library, then the Civic Fine Arts Center and currently as the city council's meeting place.

A building that once served as a Sioux Falls library was overdue for a renewal.

"This building is in good shape and it's been well taken care of, so we just want to keep going with it," Sioux Falls Facilities Manager Eric Jelken said.

Construction crews have cleaned and tightly sealed the Carnegie Town Hall's trademark quartzite stone.

"If you did a close examination of the building before this, you would see spots where the mortar was cracking and missing, so that's not going to be noticed anymore," Jelken said.

Part of the building's original slate roof has been replaced with brand-new slate.

"And so we're hoping to get another 100 years out of this new roof," Jelken said.

The windows of the city council chambers have been repainted.

"So they're actually taking windows off and doing the work from the inside," Jelken said.

The city was able to move up the renovation a year ahead of schedule thanks to some unused money from the Capital Improvement Project fund.

"There were a few days when it was rather hot on the roof when the guys were doing the slate and so they had to take some time out there, but we're on schedule to complete the project towards the end of November," Jelken said.

Long before it became Sioux Falls' town hall, the Carnegie was a haven for lovers of the printed page.

"Books were really regarded as something almost sacred," Joan Reddy of Siouxland Libraries said.

The building is named after Andrew Carnegie, the railroad and steel magnate who donated millions of dollars to build libraries throughout the world.

"And he really believed for the future of our country, people needed to be educated and libraries were a way for people to be educated, even if they weren't in school," Reddy said.

Carnegie offered the city of Sioux Fall money to build a library at Tenth and Dakota.

"The original grant in 1901 was for $25-thousand and then the library board wrote back and said we can't do that and furnish it, so they got another $5-thousand," Reddy said.

Libraries were quiet, yet vibrant centers of learning during the early 20th century.

"It definitely was the era of the bun, the hair bun and some of them had glasses as well," Reddy said.

But the heavy reading at the Carnegie Library through the decades led to a weight problem.

"And they had to shore up with steel beams kind of on an emergency basis probably around the 1940s because the weight of the periodicals and the reference books were too heavy for the building," Reddy said.

The Carnegie's latest upgrade preserves a past that speaks volumes.

"It's just a beautiful little gem of a building, and it really is part of our history here," Reddy said.

The Carnegie served as a library until 1972 when the main downtown branch of Siouxland Libraries opened.  The Civic Fine Arts Association moved into the Carnegie the following year and remained there until the Washington Pavilion opened in 1999.

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