Carnegie Public Library, Big Timber

An alternative to saloons and pool halls, the Big Timber Library stayed open evenings in 1914, with the hope of “not only … educating [people] … in the right way, but keeping them from falling by the wayside, as so many do in these western towns.” Big Timber’s first library, a “branch” of the Parmley Billings Library, was a shelf of books in a local store in 1901. By 1911, the library, then housed in the Town Hall, had grown to 1,300 volumes, and the community approached industrialist and library patron Andrew Carnegie for funding for a new building. Carnegie provided $7,500, stipulating, as he did with all his library grants, that Big Timber provide a building site and commit tax funds to support library services. Like many other Carnegie libraries, this “temple of learning,” designed by the architectural firm of Link and Haire and built in 1914, embraces Classical Revival elements made popular for civic buildings by the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One of 17 Carnegie libraries in Montana, its floor plan matches one Carnegie’s assistant recommended for small libraries. Decorated with Tuscan columns and a pedimented entry, the symmetrical one-story building has a hipped roof, large windows, a daylight basement (which houses a meeting room) and a flight of stairs leading to the main floor (which contains reading rooms and open stacks). It is a fine example of “Carnegie Classic” design, personalized by a façade of river rock at the basement level.

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314 McLeod Street, Big Timber, Montana ~ public