Carnegie Library Building

105 Cedar Avenue

The Carnegie Library, ca. 1910, view north and east from the corner of First and Cedar Avenue, Photo from the Maughlin Collection, Courtesy Rebbecca Dickinson
Campaign to add an annex, ca.1960, Courtesy Snohomish Library
Architect’s rendering of the Carnegie Library expansion, 1998, Snohomish Library
Carnegie Annex destruction, 2.24.2020, HistoryLink photo by W. Blake
City council meeting, renovated Carnegie Library Building, 2022, HistoryLink photo by W. Blake

Snohomish public library fans date the establishment of the city’s library from the founding of the Snohomish Atheneum in 1873. In addition to paying a $25 lifetime membership fee, members donated their books to create a lending library. “Rule No. 1. Each Member shall be allowed to have only one book at a time from the library. To keep the same four weeks, with the privilege of one renewal for four weeks more.”

The Public Library Association was founded in 1901 for the purpose of renting a residence at the corner of First Street and Cedar Avenue to serve as the public library. The property was eventually donated to the association. The November 13, 1903, issue of the Snohomish County Tribune reported that the application form for a Library bequest from Carnegie’s New York City office had arrived in town. Six years later a $10,000 grant was awarded, and the proud community gathered on a Thursday afternoon in May 1910, for tea and wafers to officially open their new library.

The young town outgrew the cozy 2,000-square-foot structure by the 1960s. An addition was dedicated in 1968 that more than doubled the square footage, but over time, the architectural design embarrassed us, like photos of what we wore back then. In 1989, now part of the regional Sno-Isle Libraries, organized talk of expansion began again with the title of “Library Expansion Task Force.” Ten years later, an overworked plan that was finally approved by all parties was shot down at the last hour in order to save historic homes and trees that would have been sacrificed for a required parking lot. An alternate site was found, and our new library opened, on the corner of Maple and Fourth Street, in 2002 to much acclaim and happiness. Meanwhile, the historic building, owned by the city, celebrated its 100th year in a slow-motion effort by the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation to return the building and site to its 1910 origins.

On February 18, 2020, the Annex was finally destroyed, the first step toward restoring the structure to its 1910 glory but with up-to-date utilities. In 2022, city council members returned to meeting in the Carnegie Library Building.

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