Oklahoma Territorial Museum & The Carnegie Library
Constructed in 1902, Guthrie’s Historic Carnegie Library was the second Carnegie Library to be built in Oklahoma. It is also the oldest Carnegie Library to exist in the state. In 1971 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It now operates as part of the Guthrie Museum Complex.
Backstory and Context
During the 1890s, Andrew Carnegie drew wealth from steel manufacturing. Carnegie donated $56,000,000 worldwide to build a total of 2,811 libraries. Twenty-five libraries were constructed in Oklahoma. Guthrie’s Historic Carnegie Library, built in 1902 was designed by J.H. Bennett, a prominent local architect. The building was designed to be two stories. The first story included a domed rotunda room, and five radiating reading, book and club rooms. Designed in the second Renaissance Revival style, architectural features from the original design have been preserved. There are also many original furnishings that can be found inside the building.
Located north of the Rotunda, the Stacks were used for book storage. In order to check out books, patrons would have to request them from the librarian. The librarian would find the book for the patron. Once the patron received the book they would go to the reading rooms in the library. Before they left, they would return the book to the librarian.
Many programs and events took place at the Carnegie Library. Children’s story hour was very popular in the 1930s. It also served as a popular gather place during the 1950s and 1960s for teenagers to attended Teen Town. Frank Frantz’s inauguration as Oklahoma’s last territorial governor in 1906 and Charles N. Haskell’s inauguration as Oklahoma’s first governor on November 16, 1907 were two of the most historically significant events that took place at the library.
In 1972 the Carnegie Library ended its operation as the City of Guthrie’s Library. Needing a new library, plans were made to tear down Carnegie and rebuild in its place. However, Fred Pfeiffer, a local philanthropist offered to pay for the construction of a museum next to the library if the city would not tear it down.
The Oklahoma Territorial Museum seeks to preserve the heritage of Oklahoma through the collection and interpretation of archival and material culture to present the development and influence of urban institutions. Documented in the museum is the creation of the Unassigned Lands, the Land Run of 1889, the homestead experience and both territorial and state government. The Oklahoma Territorial Museum tells the history of Guthrie as the capital city of the territorial government and the first state capital. The library is open to the public during regular museum hours. The first floor of the library is home to museum offices, meetings spaces, and storage rooms. Researches are able to access Carnegie Library records.