On February 17, 1911, Edmonds’ Carnegie Library opened its doors to the public. The building was erected largely through the efforts of city librarian Rev. John Lockwood, who helped secure a $5,000 grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation. It was constructed by H.B. Ward & Co., for a total cost of $7,483.30, and became the 19th Carnegie library in Washington state.
Between 1886 and 1919, Andrew Carnegie donated funds to create more than 1,600 new library buildings in the United States.
For many, this was the first time they ever set foot in a library building. Prior to the construction of these buildings, many communities had their books stored in obscure and inconvenient places such as stables, churches, offices and shacks. Communities seeking Carnegie grants had to own the site on which the library would be built, and the site had to be large enough so the building could be expanded in the future if necessary. Each community also had to pledge to pay an amount equal to 10 percent of Carnegie’s gift to maintain the building.
The Edmonds Carnegie Library has seen many uses in its hundred years. From the time of its opening until the early 1960s, the building housed the library on the upper floor and city offices, council chambers and a jail below. In 1973, a small group headed by Douglas Egan decided to establish a historical society and museum, and the City of Edmonds generously donated the old Carnegie Library and City Hall to use as the museum facility.
The Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society opened the museum on Aug. 13, 1973. Today, the museum features a permanent exhibit on “The Changing Face of Edmonds” on the ground floor, and rotating temporary exhibits upstairs.