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Anderson County Art Center
The Carnegie Library in downtown Anderson was one of thirteen public libraries built in South Carolina between 1905 and 1920 using funds provided by the Carnegie Foundation. The Anderson Library Association had organized a subscription library in 1900 but required larger quarters within a few years. The Carnegie Foundation accorded Anderson the relatively generous amount of $18,700 toward the construction of its proposed library building. This amount was matched by a gift of $10,000 from local philanthropist Colonel Joseph Newton Brown, to be used for acquiring a lot, purchasing equipment, and beginning an endowment. In accordance with Carnegie’s conditions, the City of Anderson committed itself to annual financial support of library service at a rate equivalent to ten percent of the amount of the Carnegie grant.
Designed by local architect Joseph Huntley Casey, construction of Anderson’s new library began in 1905 and was completed in 1908. Casey had been trained as an architect through a pioneer of distance education, the International Correspondence Schools (ICS) of Scranton, Pennsylvania, whose architecture curriculum was based on that of Columbia University. The ICS’s architecture course used the mails to serve self-motivated individuals who, for any number of reasons, found themselves unable to attend one of America’s few brick-and-mortar schools of architecture operating in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The ICS became noted especially for providing educational opportunities to women and African Americans. Those who completed the ICS course typically found themselves fully capable of entering the architecture profession. They were technically competent and proficient at producing designs, albeit often rather conservative or formulaic ones for buildings of modest scale.
Anderson’s Carnegie Library, designed in a restrained Beaux-Arts classical style and built of brick in a conventional manner, is a characteristic product of an architect with ICS training. It was one of Casey’s first big projects after he established his practice in Anderson, probably around 1900. Casey went on to design another Carnegie library (1907) for the nearby community of Honea Path, and continued to pursue a prolific career.
Anderson dedicated and opened its Carnegie Library on February 27, 1908. It remained in use for decades until becoming the home of the Anderson Arts Center, a nonprofit organization founded in 1972. The building remains a component of what is now an extensive arts complex, opened in 2006, which includes the renovated Piedmont and Northern Railway warehouses adjacent to the library building.
Bobinski, George S. Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development. Chicago: American Library Association, 1969.
Jones, Theodore. Carnegie Libraries across America: A Public Legacy. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997.
South Carolina Genealogical Society. Anderson County, South Carolina, Heritage. Anderson, S.C.: Anderson County Chapter of the South Carolina Genealogical Society, 2007.
Van Slyck, Abigail. Free to All: Carnegie Libraries and American Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Walker, Estellene P. “ So Good and Necessary a Work”: The Public Library in South Carolina. Columbia: South Carolina State Library, 1969.
Wells, John E., and Robert E. Dalton. The South Carolina Architects, 1885–1935: A Biographical Dictionary. Richmond, VA.: New South Architectural Press, 1992.
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