List of Carnegie libraries in Tennessee

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The following list of Carnegie libraries in Tennessee provides detailed information on United States Carnegie libraries in Tennessee, where 12 free public libraries were built from nine grants (totaling $310,500) awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York from 1900 to 1917. In addition, a public library was constructed at a federally owned veteran's hospital, and seven academic libraries were built at academic institutions (totaling $295,000). Tennesseans rejected several proposed Carnegie libraries, including one in 1889 at Johnson City, his first library offer in the U.S. outside Pennsylvania. Other towns that rejected Carnegie libraries included Cleveland, Columbia, Franklin, and Chattanooga (for an African-American branch). For various reasons, Carnegie also refused requests for libraries at Sparta, Knoxville, Clarksville, Martin, and Maryville College. Nevertheless, by 1919, Carnegie built twenty library building in Tennessee, including more academic and African-American libraries than any other southern state. Moreover, Carnegie authorized the single largest grant for an academic library on an American university campus in Tennessee. In total, Tennessee ranked fourth in the South in the total number of Carnegie libraries, lagging behind only Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky.[1]

Tennessee's twenty Carnegie libraries were groundbreaking civic spaces, whether located in small towns, large cities, or university campuses. Designed by professional architects, these public facilities were intended to be more than book halls and reading rooms; rather, Tennesseans wanted their Carnegie libraries to serve as community centers, even as "Universities of the People," where men, women, and children of all races and classes could be enlightened, educated, or entertained. Carnegie's free library program was a crucial component of the southern Progressives' mantra that good roads, good schools, and good libraries would build a better New South.[2]


  Building still operating as a library
  Building standing, but now serving another purpose
  Building no longer standing
  Building listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  Building contributes to a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places

Public libraries[edit]

Library City or
Image Date
Location Notes
1 Brownsville Brownsville Dec 2, 1909 $7,500 121 W. Main St. Built 1910-1912; open 1912–2002, now Chamber of Commerce; possibly designed by Neander M. Woods, Jr., Memphis; rehabbed 1993[3]
2 Chattanooga Chattanooga OldLibraryChattanooga.jpg Dec 27, 1900 $50,000 200 E. 8th St. Built 1903-1905; open 1905–1940, rehabbed late 1960s for priivate offices; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1973; designed by Reuben H. Hunt, Chattanooga, TN[4]
3 Etowah Etowah Etowah-Carnegie-Library-tn1.jpg Sep 29, 1915 $8,000 723-725 Ohio Ave. Built 1915-1916; still functions as a library; also serves as Etowah's city hall; designed by unnamed local architect/engineer/draftsman; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 2003[5]
4 Greeneville Greeneville Nov 3, 1913 $10,000 109 West Summer St. Built 1914-1915; closed 1970s; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1974; designed by Aaron T. Simmons, Bloomington, IL; also women's rest room until 1975; National Guard headquarters late 1970s; vacant[6]
5 Harriman Harriman Harriman-public-library-tn1.jpg Nov 20, 1908 $10,000 601 Walden St. Built 1909-1910; still in use as a public library; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1989; designed by Paul O. Moratz, Bloomington, IL[7]
6 Jackson Jackson Jackson Free Library.JPG Feb 13, 1901 $30,000 305 E. College St. Built 1901-1903; closed 1968, rehabbed 1981 as an art and history center; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1975; designed by Anthony Ten Eyck Brown and Frederick H. Brown, Nashville[8]
7 Johnson City Johnson City Dec 23, 1902 $16,000 Built 1902-1904, Mountain Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, now a lecture hall; National Historic Landmark; designed by Joseph H. Freeland, NYC; rehabbed 1998[9]
8 Knoxville Knoxville May 15, 1916 $10,000 Built 1916-1918; Free Colored Carnegie Branch, demolished 1965; designed by Albert B. Baumann, Knoxville; closed 1965[10]
9 Nashville Main Nashville Jul 23, 1901 $100,000 222 8th Ave. N. Built 1904; demolished 1963; designed by Albert Randolph Ross, NYC, with Thompson, Gibel & Asmus, Nashville (Supervising Architects); integrated 1949-1954; closed 1963 and replaced with Ben West Library 1963-1965[11]
10 Nashville Carnegie Nashville January 31, 1912 $25,000 1001 Monroe St. Built 1913-1915, still in use as a public library; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1980; designed by Clarence K. Colley, Nashville; rehabbed 1981-1983; designated Local Landmark[12]
11 Nashville East Nashville January 31, 1912 $25,000 206 Gallatin Rd. Built 1917-1919, still in use as a public library; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1982; designed by Clarence K. Colley, Nashville; restored 1998-2000; designated Local Landmark[13]
12 Nashville Negro Branch Nashville January 31, 1912 $25,000 220 12th Ave. N. Built 1916-1918; closed 1949, demolished ca.1969; designed by Clarence K. Colley and Robert Sharp, Nashville[14]
13 Union City Union City Apr 8, 1910 $10,000 Built 1910; demolished by WPA, 1938; designed by Henry D. Whitfield, NYC[15]

Academic libraries[edit]

Institution Locality Image Date
Location Notes
1 Fisk University Nashville Fisk University Carnegie Library.jpg Mar 15, 1905 $20,000 1720 Meharry Blvd.
36°10′03″N 86°48′18″W / 36.167620°N 86.805034°W / 36.167620; -86.805034
Fisk University Carnegie Library, now Fisk's Academic Building; built 1908-1909, listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1977 (African-American University); design attributed to Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge, Boston, and built by Gabriel Moses McKissack III, Nashville; rehabbed 1995[16]
2 Knoxville College Knoxville Mar 15, 1907 $10,000 901 Knoxville College Dr. Built 1909; demolished 1966; Alumni Memorial Library built in same location in 1967 (African-American University); designed by Martin E. Parmelee, Knoxville[17]
3 Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate Apr 18, 1904 $20,000 Campus quad
36°34′52″N 83°39′38″W / 36.581027°N 83.660447°W / 36.581027; -83.660447
Built 1904-1906; still in use as an academic library; design attributed to Gideon T. Spencer, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, LMU[18]
4 Peabody College for Teachers Nashville PeabodyLibraryVandy.JPG Jan 11, 1917 $180,000 1210 21st Ave. S. Built 1917-1919; still in use as an academic library; designated National Historic Landmark, 1965; listed on NRHP, 1966; designed by Edward L. Tilton, NYC; George Peabody College for Teachers merged in 1979 with Vanderbilt University[19]
5 University of Tennessee Knoxville Mar 15, 1905 $40,000 1404 Circle Dr. Built 1910-1911; converted into administrative offices with PWA funds in 1934, demolished above foundations. Now the Austin Peay Building, houses the department of psychology; designed by Patton & Miller, Chicago, with Martin Parmelee, Knoxville (supervising architect)[20]
6 Tusculum College Tusculum ca.1908 $10,500 910 Erwin Hwy Built 1910-1911, still in use as an academic library; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 1981; half of $22,000 grant shared with Washington College; possibly designed by Patton & Miller,Chicago[21]
7 Washington College Limestone ca.1908 $10,500 116 Doak Lane Built 1909-1910, vacant; listed on National Register of Historic Places, 2002; half of $22,000 grant shared with Tusculum College; academy closed 2000[22]


  1. ^ Jones, Robbie D. "What's in a Name? Tennessee's Carnegie Libraries & Civic Reform, 1889-1919." Master's Thesis, Middle Tennessee State University, 2002.
  2. ^ Jones, 2002: master's thesis abstract
  3. ^ Jones, 2002: 175
  4. ^ Jones, 2002: 166
  5. ^ Jones, 2002: 182
  6. ^ Jones, 2002: 181
  7. ^ Jones, 2002: 174
  8. ^ Jones, 2002: 168
  9. ^ Jones, 2002: 169
  10. ^ Jones, 2002: 184
  11. ^ Jones, 2002: 167
  12. ^ Jones, 2002: 179
  13. ^ Jones, 2002: 185
  14. ^ Jones, 2002: 180
  15. ^ Jones, 2002: 176
  16. ^ Jones, 2002: 171
  17. ^ Jones, 2002: 173
  18. ^ Jones, 2002: 170
  19. ^ Jones, 2002: 183
  20. ^ Jones, 2002: 172
  21. ^ Jones, 2002: 177
  22. ^ Jones, 2002: 178


  • Anderson, Florence (1963). Carnegie Corporation Library Program 1911–1961. New York: Carnegie Corporation. OCLC 1282382. 
  • Bobinski, George S. (1969). Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development. Chicago: American Library Association. ISBN 0-8389-0022-4. 
  • Jones, Theodore (1997). Carnegie Libraries Across America. New York: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-14422-3. 
  • Miller, Durand R. (1943). Carnegie Grants for Library Buildings, 1890-1917. New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York. OCLC 2603611. 
  • Jones, Robbie D. (2002). "What's in a Name? Tennessee's Carnegie Libraries & Civic Reform in the New South, 1889-1919." Master's Thesis, Middle Tennessee State University.

Note: The above references, while all authoritative, are not entirely mutually consistent. Some details of this list may have been drawn from one of the references without support from the others. Reader discretion is advised.