Anderson Museum of Art
Constructed in 1905 this former Carnegie Library has been home to the Anderson Museum of Art since 1998. The construction of the building was funded by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie with a goal to give everyone access to education and knowledge. The Library served the City of Anderson for almost fifty years before expanding, leaving the historical building empty. Eight years after the library's closure, Alford Center of Fine Arts Board of Trustees member, Stanley Guilkey was looking for a building to expand into. In the late 1990s, the Fine Arts Center purchased the old water-damaged library and restored it. In 1998, the Fine Arts Center opened in its new building under the name Anderson Museum of Art.
Backstory and Context
Wealthy steel tycoon, Andrew Carnegie, once said: “A man who dies [thus] rich dies disgraced.” Therefore, in the last few decades of his life, he spent his money on giving the population access to education and knowledge. In other words, he paid for any small town to construct a library as long as they could provide a site, stock it with books, and guarantee its maintenance expenses. By 1929, Carnegie had funded more than 2,500 libraries all across the growing country. One of those libraries, constructed in 1905, was located in the downtown of Anderson, Indiana.
After 30 years as the Alford Fine Arts Center (AFAC), the center was getting too large for its location on West 8th Street. Stanley Guilkey who served on the board of trustees for a long time had a vision for the expansion of the fine arts center. He wanted to secure the Anderson Carnegie Library which had sat empty for nine years. In the late 1990s, Guilkey got the former library and started the restoration process.
With a two-million-dollar budget and an eighteen-month estimated time frame, project manager Jim Abraham started to restore the Carnegie Library. On the lower level, the restoration team developed the space into staff offices, children’s gallery, a kitchen, and storage spaces. They repurposed the old check out desk to use in this area.
The main floor was much more difficult to restore. The team wanted to replicate the original appearance. To accomplish this they had to commission nearly twenty different molds to replace missing and damaged plaster trims. One-fourth of all the trim around the stained glass dome had to be replaced because of water damage. Moss Glass, in Anderson, donated their time and money to repair the glass dome that now sits on top of the building. After stripping the paint on the walls, the workers found gold leafing and a vibrant color scheme. Instead of painting the walls for the fifth time, the workers touched up the original wall. Furthermore, instead of replacing the floor, the team sanded and refinished them. The columns on the main floor were thankfully saved from the water damage because someone covered them with blue wallpaper. After stripping the wallpaper, the workers had minimal work to restore them. With the exception of the glass dome, almost everything in the Fine-Arts Center is original.
In 1998 after the restoration was complete the Alford Fine Arts Center moved to the new location. With a new location came a new name, the Anderson Museum of Art. Above the doorway is the statement: “Open to All.” Andrew Carnegie’s vision was for everyone to have access to education and knowledge. Today Carnegie’s building is used to teach people about the visual arts.
Restoration Project, Anderson Museum of Art. Accessed June 19th 2020. https://andersonart.org/restoration-project/.
History, Anderson Museum of Art. Accessed June 19th 2020. https://andersonart.org/history/.
The Gospel of Wealth, Digital History: Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Research. Accessed June 19th 2020. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=2&psid=3170.