1904 image of the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne PA
Colorized postcard showing the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, circa 1904.

Duquesne City School District Razed
Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne in June of 1968

By Glenn A. Walsh - 2006 January 18

Despite Andrew Carnegie's view that the community should support a library (a view enforced by "The Carnegie Formula"), three library gifts were given, without this requirement: Carnegie Library of Homestead, Homestead (actually Munhall, a few blocks from the Homestead Borough line), Pennsylvania (1898); Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Carnegie, Pennsylvania (1901); and the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne, Duquesne, Pennsylvania (1904 to 1968). Each of these three libraries were endowed, as were two libraries prior to the establishment of The Carnegie Formula: Carnegie Library in Dunfermline, Scotland (1881) and the Carnegie Free Library of Braddock (1889). As in the case of the Braddock Carnegie Library, the libraries in Homestead and Duquesne were built to serve the employees of Carnegie Steel Company mills in those towns, and their families. In the beginning, the local steel mill would subsidize the libraries in Braddock and Homestead.

However, in 1901, Andrew Carnegie sold the Carnegie Steel Company for $480 million to J.P. Morgan, of New York City, and the United States Steel Corporation (for a time in the 1980s and 1990s known as "United States Steel Group," a subsidiary of USX Corporation) was formed. At the conclusion of the sale, many of Andrew Carnegie's business partners became instant millionares. And, Andrew Carnegie, himself, became the richest man in the world!

To take care of the libraries in the three Monongahela Valley towns, Andrew Carnegie set-up an endowment of one million dollars, to be shared among these three libraries. This endowment was managed by a Board comprised, primarily, of officials of the U.S. Steel Corporation. However, these officials were primarily interested in making money for the corporation, not operating three libraries. Consequently, the endowment for the three libraries was managed in a very conservative manner; to this day, officials of the Carnegie Library of Homestead are troubled that a hundred-plus year endowment did not grow as much as it could have.

By the 1960s, the endowment was not enough to operate three libraries; so, it was decided to "sell-off" two of the libraries. In the 1960s, the Braddock and Duquesne libraries were sold to the school districts in those towns, for one dollar each. The Braddock Carnegie Library stayed open for awhile, but was closed for much of the 1970s and 1980s due to the bulding's dilapidated condition and lack of sufficient funding. A community effort reopened the library in the mid-1980s. Although the Braddock Carnegie Library remains open (with a small two-day a week library branch operating in the Westinghouse Valley Services Center in Turtle Creek), they continue to have financial problems.

Shortly after taking control of the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne, the Duquesne City School District razed the structure, in June of 1968, to make-way for a school district annex (possibly a new gymnasium for the high school, located across the street). However, when the school district learned that the construction of a such an annex would result in a partial loss of state funding, the project was quickly dropped. Thirteen 1970s-era split-level houses now occupy the former library property, a cul-de-sac named "Library Place." There are some who believe that real estate developers in the area influenced the demolition of the library.

Like several of Andrew Carnegie's early libraries (such as in Braddock, Allegheny City, Pittsburgh, Homestead, and Carnegie), the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne, which opened to the public in October of 1904, was more than just a library. It was a community center that included a music hall (with a fine pipe organ), lecture hall, gymnasium, bowling alleys (2), billiard room, game room, shower baths, and even a swimming pool! A friend of the author, Joan Corman, learned to swim in the library's swimming pool.

It should be noted that the City of Duquesne is one of three Third Class Cities in Allegheny County (the other two being McKeesport and Clairton). In Allegheny County, all other municipalities are chartered as boroughs, townships (there are First Class Townships and Second Class Townships), or Home-Rule Municipalities. The only exceptions are the City of Pittsburgh which remains a Second Class City (although the original definition of a Second Class City meant a city of 500,000 population or greater) and the Town of McCandless. Allegheny City (now the North Side of Pittsburgh), where Andrew Carnegie built the nation's first publicly-funded Carnegie Library (originally known as the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny; now known as the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) was also a Third Class City until, through political maneuvering in the Pennsylvania General Assembly by the City of Pittsburgh, in 1907 when the City of Allegheny was involuntarily annexed to the City of Pittsburgh. The fact that the City of Duquesne remains a Third Class City may be the reason their fairly small school district escaped the Commonwealth's mandatory school district mergers in the late 1960s.

Although the Braddock Carnegie Library is operating, once again, since this library was officially sold-off by the Board of the Endowment for the Monongahela Valley libraries, the Carnegie Library of Homestead is the only library that now has legal claim to this Endowment, the current value of which is approximately $1.8 million.

And, a few years ago, the Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport opened a small four afternoons-per-week library branch in the City of Duquesne (which is located across the Monongahela River from McKeesport). This small branch library is located in the Duquesne High School, which apparently is slated to close after the current school year ends. The future of this Duquesne branch library is unknown.

More Information about the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne ---

When The Library Was New

Homage to Duquesne’s Library

One of Duquesne’s Icons – A Cultural Playground

Highlights From Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne (Early Documents)

Explore PA History: Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne

* News Articles Regarding ---

*** Apparent End of the Duquesne (Pennsylvania) City School District (Which Razed Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne in June of 1968)

*** Duquesne Branch of the Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport

Giammarise, Kate and Rich Lord. "Whispers in the stacks: Can a library be too quiet?"
Public Source 2022 Nov. 14. First retrieved 2022 Nov. 14.

Brown, AmyJo. "The Neverending Story: It's been 13 years since the state took over the failing Duquesne school system. So why haven't things gotten better?"
Pittsburgh City Paper 2013 June 5.

Niederberger, Mary. "Confusion abounds on future in Duquesne schools."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2011 Nov. 17.

Niederberger, Mary. "Duquesne board of control member Denton resigns."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette On-Line 2011 Oct. 26.

LaRussa, Tony. "Dissolution 'worst case' for Duquesne City School District."
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 2011 Oct. 25.

McConnell Schaarsmith, Amy. "State to dissolve Duquesne public school district."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette On-Line 2011 Oct. 22.

Weaver, Rachel. "Control board letter suggests demise of Duquesne City School District."
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 2011 Oct. 22.

Schaarsmith, Amy. "Duquesne school district to close the end of the school year."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette On-Line 2011 Oct. 21.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette --

* 2007 April 19 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Duquesne schools called unacceptable
State says it would be 'morally and financially' wrong to not make changes by fall

By Mary Niederberger
The Duquesne City School District demolished the Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne in 1968.

* 2006 July 20 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
City schools agree to manage Duquesne
By Joe Smydo

* 2006 July 19 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Duquesne board approves management contract with city schools
By Tim Grant

* 2006 July 14 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Options are limited for Duquesne City Schools
By Mary Niederberger and Moustafa Ayad

* 2006 July 12 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
City schools' plan to manage Duquesne district is fast-tracked
By Mary Niederberger and Joe Smydo

2006 July 3 - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Pittsburgh, Duquesne school districts get extra funds from state
By Joe Smydo

2006 May 24: Duquesne slashes school budget Teachers, librarian, guidance counselor and nearly all activities stricken from 2006-07 spending plan
By Mary Niederberger

2006 Jan. 27: Duquesne school budget killing just about all extracurriculars
By Mary Niederberger

2006 Jan. 26: Duquesne High School closing school means other districts must help
By Mary Niederberger

2006 Jan. 25: Pittsburgh school board wary about absorbing Duquesne students
By Joe Smydo

2006 Jan. 20: Taylor suggests inviting Duquesne City students

2006 Jan. 19: Duquesne high school transfers likely would begin at grade eight
By Mary Niederberger

2006 Jan. 18 (On-Line 11:48 a.m.): Duquesne school transfers could begin 1 grade at a time
By Mary Niederberger

2006 Jan. 18: State may fold Duquesne City School District
Plans under way to relocate 195 high school students

By Mary Niederberger

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review --

* 2006 July 20 - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
City school board approves 1-year deal to manage Duquesne district
By Daveen Rae Kurutz

* 2006 April 1: Rendell releases cash for Duquesne schools

* 2006 Jan. 18: District facing last bell By Karen Roebuck

Return to History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries

Duquesne City School District Razed
Carnegie Free Library of Duquesne in June of 1968

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News: Astronomy, Space, Science: SpaceWatchtower Blog
2006 January 18

Other Internet Web Sites of Interest

History of The Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science, Pittsburgh

History of Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum, Chicago

Astronomer, Educator, and Telescope Maker John A. Brashear

History of Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries

Historic Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh

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