The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., is now housed in the old Central Public Library. Founded in 1903 and popularly known as the Carnegie Library, the library was open to all residents from its inception.
The movement to provide a public library for Washingtonians began in the mid-1890s. In 1896, after considerable citizen effort led by Evening Star publisher Theodore Noyes and others, Congress passed a bill to establish a free public library and reading room in the city. Two years later the public library operated out of 1326 New York Avenue, NW. White philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated funds to build a new library, and Mount Vernon Square was chosen as the permanent site. The resulting majestic Beaux-Arts building was designed by white New York architects Ackerman & Ross.
The largely white library staff offered programs and reading material of particular interest to African Americans. Mary Church Terrell and historian John Cromwell were regular speakers. There was also a collection of materials on African American history and culture. This was especially useful to teachers preparing for “Negro History Week” (now Black History Month). If teachers wanted to study at the library, there were separate rooms for black and white teachers, instituted at the request of white teachers and following the example of the legally segregated school system. Their students, however, studied together in the children's library.
By the 1930s the library had outgrown the building. In 1942 the administrative staff was transferred to another location. In 1972 the library and staff moved to their current location as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Ninth and G streets, NW. The new building was designed by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The Carnegie Library building continued to serve the city as the Mount Vernon campus of the University of the District of Columbia among other uses. Today it houses the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., which collects, interprets, and exhibits the city's local history. Its Kiplinger Library is open to the public for research.
Sandra Fitzpatrick and Maria R. Goodwin, The Guide to Black Washington, rev. ed. (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999).
Marya Annette McQuirter, “Claiming the City: African Americans, Urbanization and Leisure in Washington, D.C., 1902-1954,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 2000.
I would like to take the time to thank you for the support provided to our organization, Latin Fashion Week. The event was a huge success thank to the cooperation of company like Cultural Tourism DC and people like you.