Clio Logo
Downtown Leavenworth West of 4th Street Historical Walking Tour
Item 3 of 9
The building at 601 S 5th Street was constructed as a public library in 1901 to 1902 as a Carnegie Library. The two-and-a-half-story, Beaux Arts structure has a projecting central entrance bay with a two-story portico above a double-door entry. Fanciness abounds above the paired Ionic columns, with relief sculpture ornamentation, a molded cornice, and a terra cotta ornament at the pediment peak. The public library has moved to 417 Spruce Street and the S 5th Street building was renovated and converted into eleven apartments. The building now houses studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments and was renamed Carnegie 601. The ribbon-cutting was held in March of 2017.

2014 photograph of main entrance to the former Leavenworth Public Library (Fischer)

2014 photograph of main entrance to the former Leavenworth Public Library (Fischer)

Headline for article on the opening of library in the local newspaper on May 1st, 1902

Headline for article on the opening of library in the local newspaper on May 1st, 1902

1902 photograph of main - west - elevation of Leavenworth Public Library (KSHS)

1902 photograph of main - west - elevation of Leavenworth Public Library (KSHS)

The first free public library in Kansas was established in Leavenworth in 1895 by the Whittier Club. Services were housed originally in the Ryan Building - formerly on the corner of 4th and Cherokee streets, as of January 14, 1896. The library needed more room and moved to the county court house in October 1896. Local women formed a Public Library Association and held fundraisers to raise money to buy a location to build a library. Leavenworth's voters approved a new tax to pay for the library in the spring 1899 election. A site was chosen on S 5th Street to build this building as a permanent library.

The city applied for and received $30,000 in funding from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation to build the library; the city agreed to fund the library at $5,000 per year. A Grecian temple design was chosen and construction was begun in 1901. Architects were Mr. Sanguinet and Mr. Feth. H.C. Walcott won the contract for the building's slating and copper work. The library in the court house closed on December 15th 1901 and the books were being moved to the new building by the following March. Two weeks before the opening date, about 4,200 books were in place, with another 300 to be shelved.

No ceremony was planned for the opening day on May 1st 1902, but the public was invited to visit when the doors were opened at 8 o'clock in the evening to 11. The local newspaper touted the elegant furniture in the building, and the chandeliers and decor of the reading room in particular. Miss Syrena McKee and Miss Johnson were the first librarians in the new building. The library's hours in 1902 were from 10am to 10pm on weekdays. On Sundays the library opened the reading room from 2pm to 10pm but for reading only; no books could be checked out. Books were checked out for a two-week period. Late fees were two cents per day.

Two days after opening, the librarians requested that "those entering the building...converse in lower tones" since the openness of the building amplified sound. Children were allowed to enter the stacks to pick out books but adults needed to choose the book's card from the card catalog. A number of boys volunteered to be pages to retrieve books for library patrons. Groups met in the club room of the public library; in one week in October 1902, the Philomathean club, the Whittier club, and the City federation had meetings scheduled at the library.

To the dismay of some people, it was discovered that the people of Leavenworth were more interested in reading works of fiction than non-fiction. A 1904 local newspaper article bemoaned that "trashy fiction seems to be the choice of 89 per cent of the patrons of the library" based on a study by the library's board. The writer wondered if the library was carrying out its purpose of "education of the masses" and suggested restricting circulation to "books of science, of history, travel and of education."

A two-bedroom, 1-bath apartment in the former library that covers 900 square feet rents for about $849 per month. One-bedroom apartments rent for around $715 and studio units rent for less. Residents are free to read as many trashy novels as they please.

Anonymous. Untitled. Atchison Daily Globe (Atchison, KS) August 24, 1901, 4-4.

Anonymous. "Mrs. Snyder's Report." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) May 10th 1901, 8-8.

Anonymous. "City News." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) January 17th 1902, 6-6.

Anonymous. "Moving Library Books." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) March 18th 1902, 8-8.

Anonymous. "Will Open May 1. Library Board at Last Sets the Date." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) April 15th 1902, 4-4.

Anonymous. "Opens Tonight. Public Invited to Visit the Public Library." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) May 1st 1902, 4-4.

Anonymous. "Carnegie Library Opened." Topeka State Journal (Topeka, KS) May 2nd 1902, 2-2.

Anonymous. "At the New Library." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) May 3rd 1902, 4-4.

Anonymous. "In Society. Social Calendar for Week." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) October 12th 1902, 5-5.

Anonymous. "Of Questionable Utility." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) April 21st 1904, 2-2.

HotPads. 601 S 5th Street, Leavenworth, KS 66048, Apartments. July 2nd 2018. Accessed July 30th 2020.

Leavenworth Times. "Carnegie transitions into mixed-use residential space." Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) March 16th 2017. online ed.

Pollner, Nona. "Tje Public Library." The Leavenworth Times (Leavenworth, KS) November 22nd 1912. , 3-3.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

The Leavenworth Times, May 1st 1902, p. 4