SHERIDAN — The Alliance for Historic Wyoming is celebrating historic Carnegie library buildings in Wyoming with the traveling exhibit “Cowboy Carnegies.” The exhibit will be on display at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library through the month of April.
The exhibit consists of five panels detailing the history and architecture of Wyoming’s 16 Carnegie libraries.
In conjunction with the exhibit, on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., Carly-Ann Anderson, executive director of the Alliance for Historic Wyoming, will give a presentation on the history of Carnegie libraries in Wyoming. The presentation will be in the Inner Circle of the library and is free and open to the public.
“The community dedication shown by the construction and continued maintenance of Carnegie library buildings should not be forgotten,” Anderson said. “Like school buildings, churches and neighborhoods, Wyoming’s Carnegie libraries are architectural gems and community landmarks.”
Libraries in Sheridan date back to 1883. The city’s founder, John D. Loucks, opened a small library in the upstairs of a small building downtown. Sheridan City Library followed this original library, opening in 1903. In 1904, the Sheridan City Library applied for and received a $12,500 grant from the Carnegie Public Library fund. President of the Sheridan Commercial Club Edward Gillett was the correspondent to Andrew Carnegie.
In a letter dated April 1904 in response to the reception of the grant, Gillett mentions that the selected site for the new library was very close to the center of town. This detail is particular interesting because it upholds the value that libraries, particularly libraries in Andrew Carnegie’s vision, should be at the physical and ideological center of a community. The new Sheridan Carnegie Public Library opened Aug. 1, 1905.
Sheridan’s Carnegie library was demolished in 1974 after the new Sheridan Margaret S. Fulmer Memorial Public Library opened. Harry B. Fulmer pledged $300,000 to the construction and it was dedicated to his late wife.
Carnegie libraries were so named because of the philanthropic generosity of Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie funded the construction of 1,689 libraries across the country between 1889 and 1919 through construction grants to communities large and small. Wyoming had 16 Carnegie libraries, built between 1899 and 1917, a remarkable number for a state with a small and dispersed population. Today, just 10 Carnegie libraries remain standing and five are still used as libraries. Carnegie libraries represent a fascinating era in community development in the U.S., when philanthropic funds and local initiatives combined to create free public libraries that became centers of community learning and gathering.
The Cowboy Carnegies campaign is part of the AHW’s “This Place Matters” program, highlighting the importance of preserving historic buildings and oral history accounts of historic places and spaces in Wyoming. The exhibit is sponsored in part by a grant from the Wyoming Humanities Council.
The Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library is located at 335 W. Alger St.