by: Danielle Dumont
stored in: General

A stately landmark sits amid tall trees along the south edge of the Huffman Historic Area. The brick Classical Revival building, with wide limestone steps and a tiled roof, was originally a Carnegie Library, endowed by the steel and railroad magnate Andrew Carnegie. In 1912, the city of Dayton received $65,000 to build two Carnegie Libraries, one on the east side of downtown and one on the west side, just over 1 mile away from the main library.

Prior to 1912, the acreage for the east library went through several changes. The land was originally owned by James and Jane Findley and used for farming; it was well outside the city limits then. In 1856 the Findley’s estate transferred the triangular wedge of property to the public for use as a market. In 1876, the enterprising William Huffman made an arrangement with the City of Dayton to use the land for his own business purposes in exchange for the city using some of his land north of the Great Miami River for its water works operation. In 1896 the agreement with Huffman expired and the land came back to the city.

Dayton began building the library in 1912, but the flood of 1913 delayed its completion. The library finally opened in 1914, after receiving additional money to restock books ruined by the flood waters.

Restored interior of Carnegie Library on E. Fifth St.

Restored interior of Carnegie Library on E. Fifth St.

The building’s tall pocket doors, arched oak woodwork, brick fireplace, large sunlit windows, and airy ceilings are well preserved. It functioned as a library until the 1960s, when a new branch was built further east and the Carnegie building was converted to a community center. In its early years the library lent many books to adults and children as the neighborhoods on the east side grew. Many of the books were in the German language, reflecting one of the immigrant populations in this area. The library also hosted meetings of several clubs and organizations, such as the Boy Scouts and the Women’s Suffrage League, and held music concerts and entertainment in its auditorium and outside in the adjoining park.

Today the building is home to the Southeast Priority Board, an organization which fosters citizen participation in city government. It was dedicated as the Sims Center, for respected community organizer Charles Sims, in 1971. However, the name Carnegie remains carved in stone above the front entrance as a special reminder of his philanthropy and love for books. Carnegie had been a beneficiary of book lending from a private library while growing up poor in Pennsylvania. By the time he made his fortune, he believed that whatever riches you had should be shared with the community. Although the walls are no longer lined with bookshelves, our neighborhood’s Carnegie building fosters collaboration and learning today that lives up to its historic mission.

3 Responses to “Carnegie Library Built in Huffman in 1914”

  1. Joanie Amato Spain Says:

    Danielle, thank you for such a well written piece about this Huffman landmark. I often wondered about that beautiful building and used to enjoy going there to vote when it was our neighborhood polling place.

  2. Danielle Dumont Says:

    Thanks to Connie Nisonger of the City of Dayton Southeast Priority Board for her assistance with research on our neighborhood’s historic Carnegie Library building.

  3. Joel Michael Says:

    Connie once showed me the graffiti left by the builders of the Carnegie library up in the attic. Some of those names are still common in East Dayton

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