Statement before                 Glenn A. Walsh

Historic Review Commission:                P.O. Box 1041

    Nomination of Five                     Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041 U.S.A.

     Libraries for City                        Telephone: 412-561-7876

   Designated Historic                       Electronic Mail: < >

     Structure Status                           Internet Web Site: < >

                                                                                2004 January 7


Good afternoon. I am Glenn A. Walsh of 633 Royce Avenue, Mount Lebanon. Today, I am representing no formal organization.


First, I want to commend the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation for nominating the Hazelwood, Homewood, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, and West End Branches, of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, to the status of City Designated Historic Structure. With the successful completion of this designation process, all original, Andrew Carnegie-built library buildings, which are presently used as libraries, will be protected by the Pittsburgh Historic Review Law.


This is important, because it is the system of neighborhood library branches throughout the City, originally envisioned by Andrew Carnegie, which is of major historical significance. Andrew Carnegie, through his very generous library funding, popularized the neighborhood branch library system, not just for Pittsburgh, but for the world. And, it all began right here in Pittsburgh!


Andrew Carnegie proposed a neighborhood branch library system for Pittsburgh during his second offer of libraries to the City, in a letter to the Pittsburgh Mayor and the City’s Select and Common Councils on February 6, 1890. A few other cities did have a limited number of neighborhood branch libraries at that time. In his letter, Andrew Carnegie mentions that New York City had four such branches and Baltimore had five; he would later fund many more library branches for both cities.


However, it was here in Pittsburgh that Andrew Carnegie first proposed funding a system of neighborhood library branches. He first proposed the construction of five such branches: on the South Side, West End, East Liberty, Lawrenceville, and in the Hill District. But, this proposal was soon modified to include branches in Hazelwood, Homewood, and Mt. Washington. In fact, the Hazelwood and Mt. Washington branches were among the first constructed, both opening in 1900!


Andrew Carnegie felt very strongly that neighborhood branch libraries were as important, if not more important, than the Main Library. When the City of Philadelphia sought funding for library branches in 1903, Andrew Carnegie’s reply included the following:


“We find in Pittsburgh that the branch libraries are the most popular institution, and I think, the most useful. A great Central Library, is of course, needed, but even before it in usefulness, I place the local libraries, which reach the masses of the people.”


And, Andrew Carnegie felt strongly that a public library should be recognized by the people as a special place, where a person can improve their lot in life. He insisted that all of the branch libraries he built would be “monumental in character.” He certainly did not want these libraries to be perceived as just another establishment in a retail district.


So, they were all built to be separate, detached structures, built in a “monumental” character. The branches in Hazelwood, Homewood, and Lawrenceville were constructed with large auditoriums. And, the Hazelwood Branch was even given a beautiful stained-glass dome, above the original mahogany circulation desk!


The purpose of today’s public hearing is to determine whether the nominated buildings may be qualified to become City Designated Historic Structures. When first proposed for construction in 1890, there is no doubt that the Pittsburgh neighborhood library branch system was the largest and most comprehensive proposed, up to that time. While New York and Baltimore had some branch libraries, Andrew Carnegie proposed a branch library system that would effectively serve the entire City of Pittsburgh!


Due to these facts, all of the original, Andrew Carnegie-built neighborhood branch libraries are extremely significant to the history of the development of public libraries in this nation. The five libraries nominated for historic designation are part of a library system that changed the delivery of library services throughout the world! Hence, these five libraries are very deserving of the status of City Designated Historic Structure.


Thank you.