Indiana boasts the largest number of Carnegie public libraries in the United States—originally 164 (18 have since been demolished), along with two at academic institutions, all built between 1901 and 1918. The Union City Public Library offers a representative example. One of the earliest of Indiana’s Carnegie libraries, it was built on parkland donated in 1880. The donation stipulated that the western lots were to remain a park, and the library was constructed on the far eastern side of the land. Union City received a $10,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation in 1903, and the town pledged the remaining $2,000. Anderson architects Wright and Duncan designed the building in the popular Classical Revival style, and building contractor J.M. Steele completed the library in 1904.
The one-story limestone building has a raised basement. The main west facade features a portico with four fluted, limestone Corinthian columns supporting a stone entablature surmounted by a wooden pediment. A wooden balustrade tops the cornice on three sides of the structure. The building still has its original wood, one-over-one, double-hung sash windows, somewhat obscured by metal storm windows. The interior remains essentially intact, with its huge hexagonal circulation desk centered in the main reading room, flanked north and south by two large reading rooms. There are two offices, in the northeast and southeast corners, which were part of the original plan. All the woodwork, which is substantial, appears to be oak.
In 1988, an unobtrusive limestone addition was built on the library’s south side to accommodate handicap access. The library is still active and its parklike setting remains intact.
Bobinski, George S. Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development. Chicago: American Library Association, 1969.
Compton, Catherine R., Russell W. Archer, and Ellen Thackery, “Union City Public Library,” Randolph County, Indiana. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 2004. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Jones, Theodore. Carnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997.