Sunday, February 14, 2016

Carpenter Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Carpenter is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 3309 South Grand Boulevard at McDonald Avenue in the Tower Grove South Neighborhood.



The library was named for George Oliver Carpenter, a successful president of a lead and oil company during St. Louis' age of industry. In 1925, while president of the St. Louis Public Library Board, Carpenter announced his plans to donate land for the branch. The Board unanimously resolved to name it in his honor. Carpenter lived in an Italianate-Mediterranean style mansion at 12 Portland Place.

The St. Louis Public Library "Check It Out" series has a wonderful summary of Carpenter's life and contributions to the library:
George Carpenter was born in 1852 to a prominent Boston family with ties reaching back to the Revolutionary War. 
George O. Carpenter
Following a distinguished academic career, Carpenter headed west to pursue his livelihood with the St. Louis Lead & Oil Company. In the span of 20 years, he worked his way from entry clerk to company president. In 1891, St. Louis Lead & Oil merged with the Southern and Collier Lead & Oil Companies and the National Lead Company, with Carpenter at the helm of this early 20th century industrial powerhouse. Like many of his contemporaries, Carpenter was deeply committed to making his community a better place. He was a key Library Board member and supporter, actually donating the land on South Grand Boulevard for what is now the Carpenter Branch. He also established two funds for the Library, both of which still exist and have supplied books for years. In fact, this year, 2014, one of the funds provided $22,000, and the Library spent every cent on additional e-books. (Actually, the tab came to $22,000.41, so our Executive Director threw in the 41 cents!). Mr. Carpenter specified the money go to “books the Librarian” determines “could not be purchased with the regular Book Fund.” The Librarian, who in this context is the Executive Director, chose to put the money into e-books that the Library couldn’t have afforded to purchase otherwise.
It’s remarkable to think that George O. Carpenter, who has been dead for 75 years, has provided St. Louis with a resource that he not only never knew but could never have even envisioned. Imagine what an industrialist of a century ago would have thought of downloading a book onto an electronic device! Yet in very real ways he made it possible. 
The efforts, commitment, and generosity of George Carpenter has improved the lives of thousands of St. Louisans for more than 100 years. His is truly a lasting legacy.
There is a painting and plaque of Carpenter in the computer room:
Carpenter is the last of the seven Carnegie libraries; in fact, it the last Carnegie library built in the United States, here's a photo from 1927.
 photo source, circa 1927: SLPL Then and Now

Upon its opening in February 1927, the crowds were so large that for ten days policemen were needed to handle all the people who wanted to see the building. Wilbur T. Trueblood of the W.T. Trueblood and Hugo K. Graf Architectural Firm designed the building (source). Some things never change, as this part of St. Louis is one of the most densely populated and diverse by all definitions, the place is always crowded. 
Per the library, Carpenters' visitation numbers are only surpassed by the Central Library with an average of 10,000 patrons coming and going each month.

The original Carpenter branch building was closed from November, 2000 until May 20, 2002, but library operations continued at a temporary site (3150 S. Grand, now a local restaurant "Rooster"). The renovation almost doubled Carpenter’s floor space to 25,000 square feet, and its collection more than doubled from 30,000 items in 1927 to 70,000 at the reopening. 

The building is a single story treasure. The original structures are toward the north nearest Utah Street, with the addition nearest McDonald Avenue.
original portion
 modern addition
There is a small parking lot off of McDonald Avenue and street parking on Grand. There are bike racks perfectly located near both the front and rear entrances.
The foyer from the rear entrance has a display case with revolving content.
There is a filigree theme that compliments the fonts used in the adult sections of the library.
The music, movies, computer and adult sections are formal. The quiet rooms are private and secluded...perfect.
The children's section is likely the real eye-catcher as it is extremely well designed, with whimsical art work and decor. There are two fireplaces flanking the kids/teen area, providing a cozy, homey kind of vibe. Aside from Central, it is probably my favorite kids library. These sections benefit from the large windows and classic design of the original part of the building.
the mirror above the fireplace is angled so little ones can peer up and see themselves
The meeting rooms are on the lower level and are available to the public.

Carpenter is one of five libraries that currently holds Sunday hours (along with Buder, Central, Julia Davis and Schlafly).

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