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The History of the Carnegie Library

Our History

In 1906 the library was built with $15,000 donated by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie with the agreement from the city that $1,500 would be set aside each year to maintain the building and the collection.

Because the people of Boulder referred to their town as the “Athens of the West,” architect Thomas McLaren patterned the library after a small Greek temple that had been unearthed in 1905 near Athens.

 The large open two-story room, complete with fireplace, was designed to allow librarians over the years to move furniture and stacks to meet the demands of a growing collection. The Carnegie Library was able to keep up with the town’s needs until the population doubled and the books and patrons began to exceed the space.  Once the new library on Canyon Boulevard was built, Carnegie’s role in the community diminished and the building began to show signs of deterioration and neglect.

In 1981, Library staff rallied to regain ownership of the building. With the Colorado collection outgrowing space at the Main Library, the entire collection of books, maps, oral histories and documents were moved into the little building on Pine Street. By 1983, the Carnegie was re-opened as the Carnegie Library for Local History.  The city of Boulder is proud to have such a comprehensive and extensive collection housed in the Carnegie Library for Local History.

Our Local History Collections

Very few public libraries have collections of local history materials as comprehensive or as exciting as those in the Carnegie Library for Local History.

Documents Collection consisting of 750,000 items specific to Boulder City and Boulder County, many of which were created before the name Colorado was given to this area, including diaries, letters, maps, and newspaper clippings, papers of pioneer families and businesses as well as records of churches, clubs, and mining districts. Click here to view a sampling of our documents collection.

Newspapers include bound and loose newspapers as well as Boulder Daily Camera newspaper clippings. Several newspapers ranging from 1869- present can be viewed on microfilm. Included are the Boulder Daily Camera, Colorado Daily, The Boulder County Miner, the Boulder Tribune, and The Boulder News and Banner, to name a few.

Maps of Boulder City and Boulder County are specific to the growth of the area.  Many maps have been digitized.

Photograph Collection shows what life was like in the towns, farms, and mining camps of early Boulder County through the 1970s. This collection also includes slides, glass-plate negatives, stereo views, and film, dating from the 1850s to the present. Many digital images can be viewed online. Click here to view a sampling of our photograph collection.

Oral History Interviews of long time Boulder county residents reflect what life was and is like living in our ever-changing community. Over 1,900 interviews ranging from farming and mining to politics are accessible online through the Maria Rogers Oral History Program.

Books and Periodicals covering the various aspects of Boulder county history including city/county directories, high school and university yearbooks, and Boulder phone books.

Vertical Files contain newspaper clippings, pamphlets, brochures, and ephemera covering general Boulder County topics. The contents of these files are in the process of being cataloged.