We Very Much Desire a Building of Our Own

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

“We very much desire to have a building of our own, where we can keep up the library as it should be.” -J.W. Patterson, President, Newton Free Library, Letter to Andrew Carnegie, 17 February 1902.

On Saturday, May 3, we will celebrate the 110th birthday of the building that houses the Harvey County Historical Museum and Archives.   A free event, all activities will take place in and around the Museum building from 2-4 pm.  Join us for birthday cake, games and fun!


In 1901, the Newton Free Library Board began to think about a library building.  Prior to this the library had been housed on the second floor in various buildings along Main.  This was less than ideal.  To grow as a library and serve the community, a building was needed. At the same time, Newton mayor, G.W. Young became aware that Andrew Carnegie, “American iron and steel manufacturer and philanthropist,”  was providing money to communities to build libraries.  Library board member, J.W. Patterson, contacted Carnegie to request funding.

A positive response came from James Bertram, Carnegie’s secretary.

“If the city of Newton pledges itself by resolution of Council to support a Free Public Library at a cost of not less than one thousand dollars a year and provides a suitable site, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to furnish ten thousand dollars for the erection of a free public library building.” -James Bertram, sec’ty to J.W. Patterson, President, Newton Free Library, March 14, 1902.

After some additional correspondence, Carnegie agreed to increase his financial gift to fifteen thousand dollars for the construction of the new library.

The Library Board then searched for the best location.  For the next year, the Library Board and the City Council debated the proper location of the new building.  Initially, five different locations were considered, but was soon narrowed to three sites.  The Library Board favored a site at 2nd and Main. The City Council advocated for one of two locations; the corner of 6th and Poplar or the corner of 7th and Main.  Despite elections and resolutions, the situation remained “snarled” until late December 1902 when the Library Board resolved to “express to the City Council our desire to cooperate with it in every way possible to ensure the speedy erection of the library on the above named site,” at the corner of 2nd and Main.  The three lot site was donated by Newton businessman E.C. Lewellyn.

In the spring of 1903, plans moved forward.  The library board hired noted Kansas City architect, William W. Rose and accepted the bid of $11,445 submitted by contractors Reikowsky and Bartel of Hutchinson.  Bids were also accepted for the plumbing and gas from Mr. Hollinger and for steam fitting from Mr. Follet.

William Rose, Architect

William Rose, Architect

The original plans called for gas lighting, but at the August meeting, the Board voted to have the building wired for electricity.  On January 12, 1904, architect Rose reported that the building was completed and that final payments could be issued to the contractors.

Like many Carnegie Libraries, the Newton Free Library was classical in style with masonry construction, two stories with a high base and steps that led to the front entrance.  The first floor windows were set high on the facade. 

Construction 1903

Building the Carnegie Library, Newton, Ks, 1903 Corner of 2nd and Main, Newton

Carnegie Library buildings typically featured large, open interior spaces with a reference desk located so that the librarian could see into several spaces. The layout reflected a commitment to providing public access and a move to professional staff.

Floor Plan examples of Carnegie Libraries

The main floor of the Newton Free Library was devoted to reading rooms, a reference desk, and closed stacks.

The second floor was known as “Carnegie Hall” with a stage and “a neat little dressing room in the southeast corner.” The space was perfect for “dramatics” and other public meetings.  

On Monday, March 14, 1904 the Evening Kansan-Republican announced;

The Opening Today of the New Library Marks Another Epoch In Newton’s History”

The paper reported that “a constant stream of men, women and children visited the Carnegie Library” on opening day.  The reading rooms were declared “the most beautiful with its handsomely finished walls , oak wood work and beautiful furniture.”  The reporter concluded by wondering, “how the city or librarian ever managed without it so long . . . It is certainly a charming place to spend and hour . . . and will be a favorite retreat.”

Andrew Carnegie provided funds for libraries from 1883-1919 with most of the funding between 1901-1917.   He contributed over $40 million dollars to communities in the United States with most grants awarded between $15 and 30,000 and 59 libraries were constructed in Kansas with the help of Carnegie.

HCHM Postcard, Carnegie Library, Newton

HCHM Postcard, Carnegie Library Newton

To read about the first librarian at the Newton Free Library click here.

Watch for Part 2 of our series on the Carnegie Library building next week and plan to come celebrate on Saturday, May 3.


  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • Newton Weekly Kansan Republican; 16 January 1905.
  • Evening Kansan Republican;  12 March 1904, 14 March 1904, 15 March 1904.
  • “The Newton Free Library” in Newton Kansan 50th Anniversary 22 August 1922, p. 75.
  • National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form # 74000840, 1974.
  • Allbaugh, Alden.  “The Newton Public Library 100 Year History, 1886-1986” HCHM Archives.
  • Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1918.  “William W. Rose”
  • Diericks, Mary B. ,”The Architecture of Literacy Carnegie Libraries in the U.S.”  National Trust for Historic Preservation November 3, 2006. http://www.carnegielibraries.pghfree.net/nthp/natltrust-presentation1.pdf
  • Gardiner, Allen.  Carnegie Legacy in Kansas Kansas State Library, 1985.  http://skyways.lib.ks.us/carnegie/page115.html

Excellent and Efficient Service Miss Lucinda McAlpine

The library, in one form or another, has been a part of Harvey County history almost from the beginning. The very earliest library was a semi-private library organized by leading women in the Newton community; however, the books in the “Ben Franklin Library” were not available to everyone. By 1885, the Newton Public Library Association had been formed with leadership from the local chapter or the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. For an annual fee of $1.00, members could use the library.

In 1886, the Kansas legislature passed a law allowing second class cities to levy a tax for support of a free library. This levy was approved by Newton voters in 1886 and the “Newton Free Library” was established. Rooms were rented above the N. Barnum and Co. Store at 517 Main. Miss Lucinda McAlpine was hired as the first librarian. Her salary for the seventeen years she worked at the library was $40 a month.

Library located on the second floor of the N. Barnum and Co. at 517 Main, Newton 1886-1899 Photo date: 1910 HCHM Photo Archives

Lucinda McAlpine  was 49 years old when she agreed to serve as librarian.  Born in Factoryville, PA on 11 November 1837,  Miss McAlpine was well educated.  She attended a country school in Pennsylvania, followed by Waverly Academy.  In 1862, she graduated from Claverack College in New York.  Following graduation, she taught at Claverack College, and Albion Academy in Iowa before coming to Kansas in 1884.  After teaching a year in Kingman, Ks, Miss McAlpine moved to Newton where she taught first grade at Lincoln Elementary. Typically, Miss McAlpine would devote her mornings to teaching and then in the afternoon she would be at the library.

First Librarian on the Newton Free Library, Newton, Ks

First Librarian on the Newton Free Library, Newton, Ks

She wanted to share her love of learning with all, a sentiment that she expressed often in her reports to the library board.  She sought “to make the Newton Free Library the most interesting institution in our city.” To meet that goal the library hosted lectures and concerts in addition to providing research assistance and reading materials.

In selecting books and magazines to include in the library, Miss McAlpine noted that “careful attention has been given to reference works for clubs and schools.” She also was concerned about the types of books available to young impressionable readers. In selecting materials to include in the library for young people “she . . .  kept a careful eye over their reading.”   Help was provided for researchers “and none turned away unsatisfied if possible to find the required information.”

Her obituary noted that

it was as librarian that her influence was chiefly felt, and through that medium she had the opportunity to touch the lives of young and old in a way the meant much to the culture and uplifting of the community.” 

Miss Lucinda McAlpine, 1902 First Librarian 1886-1902 HCHM Photo Archives

In 1899, the library was moved to the second floor of the Randall Building at 6th and Main.   The library board rented the space for $15 a month. This new location was not without problems. The rooms on the third floor were rented to other people. Cleanliness of the shared spaces, the stairs and hallways,  soon became an issue. The library board addressed the issue by requesting the third floor tenants clean the stairs and the hallway.  When that approach did not work, the board decided that the area be “scrubbed on Mondays and Thursdays and the bill presented to the tenants of the flats.”  Unfortunately, the issue continued, and at a July 1902 meeting the board decided that “the librarian should apportion the cleaning cost among the upstairs renters and collect from them.”  Miss McAlpine was less than happy with this new task “imposed” on her by the board. 

” A pleasant reading room” Newton Free Library Reading Room 2nd floor Randall Building, 6th and Main Western Journal of Commerce, 1901, p. 4

Miss McAlpine retired as librarian in 1902, but she remained involved as library board secretary for six more years.  In 1911, the library board  expressed their appreciation of her years of “excellent and efficient service.”  They noted that under her care, “the library grew from a few volumes to many, and it was largely [her] understanding of the needs of the public that directed the purchase of books.

Due to an injury in her youth and increasing difficulty with rheumatism, Miss McAlpine spent that last years of her life in the home of her niece, Lulu Knight Raber, as an invalid. On January 31, 1922, Miss Lucinda McAlpine passed away.


  • Evening Kansan Republican1 February 1922, 2 February 1922
  • Newton Kansan 50th Anniversary Issue, 22 August 1922, p. 75-76.
  • Western Journal of Commerce, 1901.  HCHM Archives.
  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • Allbaugh, Alden.  “The Newton Public Library 100 Year History, 1886-1986” HCHM Archives.

This was originally posted on March 2014 on HCHM’s old blog site with the same  with the same title.