Clio Logo

Erected in 1904, the former Mason City Public Library was the first purpose-built library in the city and is one of the city's best examples of Classical Revival architecture. Built with Indiana limestone, notable features of the library include a large portico with paired fluted Doric columns supporting an entablature, and a main entrance with a carved stone pediment. The building is also significant for its association with industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who donated the funds to built it. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the old library is now home to a construction company and an architecture firm.

The old Mason City Public Library was built in 1904 and operated until 1939. An excellent example of Classical Revival architecture, it currently houses the offices of an architecture firm and construction company.

Sky, Daytime, Property, Building

The library was built during a period when Mason City was experiencing significant growth as it had established itself as a major industrial center in northern Iowa. The effort to build the new library was spearheaded by local attorney James E. Blythe, who managed to convince Carnegie to increase the grant amount from $13,000 to $25,000. Blythe actually met with Carnegie and Carnegie's assistant through his connection to Iowa Senator William B. Allison, who made the arrangements for the meeting.

Chicago architecture firm Patton and Miller, which had a good reputation for designing libraries in Iowa and the Midwest, was selected to the design the new library. Interestingly, construction was delayed for three months because of a contentious debate about what type of stone to use. Some in the community wanted the library to be built with local stone whereas others (including Putnam and Miller) favored Indiana limestone. In the end, Indiana limestone was chosen. Construction was completed in December 1904 and the library opened to the public in January 1905.

The library operated until 1939 when a new one was built. By then, the population had grown to 27,000 and the Carnegie library was no longer adequate. What it was used for during the following decades is unclear.

Brandt, Jo A. "Mason City Public Library." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. May 25, 1989.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Wikimedia Commons: