Carnegie Free Library
Carnegie Free Library

Carnegie Free Library

The picture shows the Carnegie Library, which was the precursor of today's Public Library. Actually, El Paso Public Library is the oldest public library in Texas. It was founded by the teacher Mary Irene Stanton in 1894, when she donated her personal collection for a boy's Reading Club, to help her students. The books were placed in a room in the Sheldon building. The room became so popular that adults asked for the privileges of reading Stanton's books and the membership was extended to all, including women. The first library association was formed in 1896 consisting of Stanton as librarian and other women. In the same year the reading room was moved to City Hall. In 1899 it became open to the public. By 1900, the library had more than 1,500 books on the shelves and the first trained librarian was hired. With the financial support of the Carnegie Foundation of the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, a separate building was built in 1904, the Carnegie Library. Mauran, Russell and Garden, architects from St. Louis, designed the library. It was a one-story structure with half a basement and was built on the block then known as Buckler Square, later renamed Carnegie Square. One of the most important forces in the development in the El Paso Public Library has to be the tenure of Maud Durlin Sullivan, who came to the library in 1908. Sullivan built a huge collection of books, musical scores and art prints, acquired books written in Spanish, developed a usable system of access and exhibited art in the library. Sullivan served as librarian until her death in 1943. In 1954 a new library building opened at the same site.

Area: Central / Downtown

Collection: Stansel Postcard Collection

Source: University of Texas at El Paso Library - Special Collections Department

Reference ID: PH049-1-1-017

Uploaded by: El Paso Museum of History


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Downtown Main Library was set to be renovated in 2021. Article Vic Kolenc, "Mexican American Cultural Center set for construction," El Paso Times, Sept 16, 2021, p. 1A.

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