Pasco library building turns 100

PASCO -- A century ago, Pasco's Carnegie Library opened with 1,270 books.

The building no longer is home to the city public library, but some say visitors still can smell the comforting scent of well-loved books as they enter what's now the Franklin County Historical Museum.

Historical society members are preparing to celebrate the building's 100th birthday this year. The Pasco Carnegie Library was dedicated on June 29, 1911.

The city's first library was one of 1,679 nationwide to receive a grant from steel magnate Andrew Carnegie.

Parts of the building, including the dumbwaiter that once transported books between the two floors, still are in use a century later.

The Pasco building has managed to create some mysteries during its century of life.

Sherel Webb, Franklin County Historical Society administrator, said no one seems to know why the building was designed with a safe, which at the time was considered impenetrable. She wonders what was so valuable that a safe was needed.

And the building also has two fireplaces, something most Carnegie libraries didn't have, she said.

They also don't exactly know when the sunburst went missing that used to be in front of the outdoor staircase to the building's entrance on Fourth Avenue, Webb said. A sunburst is a characteristic of Carnegie libraries.

"We sure would love to have it back," she added.

After the Pasco library moved to a new building in 1962, the building was a YMCA, offices, a coffee house and a ceramics studio, Webb said.

The city donated the building to Franklin County with the stipulation that it be used for a museum, Webb said. The historical society reached a low-cost rent agreement with the county, and Webb said the county helps maintain the building.

The library became a museum on Jan. 29, 1983, she said.

There still was ceramic dust coating the floor from the last business to occupy the building when the historical society started restoration work in 1980 with mostly volunteer labor, according to Herald archives.

Although the windows were modernized, they were made to look like the originals, Webb said. The wood bookcases that held library books became exhibit cases, and the original woodwork was refurbished.

Tennessee Campbell, who was president of the Franklin County Historical Society in 1980 when the remodeling began, told the Herald then that she remembered visiting the library to check out twin books and mystery stories.

"I can still hear Edna Linbarger, who for many years was librarian, telling us, 'Shhh,' " she said. "There was no horsing around in those days, although high school girls used to meet their boyfriends on the library steps."

"It was an inspiring place and really something for a town of only 2,900 people," she said. "We were very proud of our library."

The library is one of three buildings in Pasco on the National Register of Historic Places. The other two are the Moore Mansion, built in 1908, and the Franklin County Courthouse, completed in 1913, Webb said.

But it wasn't the Tri-Cities' first library. Kennewick had a library in 1909, said Corene Hulse, East Benton County Historical Museum administrator. Richland's first library likely was opened in 1945, although it didn't become a city library until Richland was incorporated in 1958, said Connie Farr, Richland's reference librarian.

When the Pasco library opened in 1911, about 200 of the town's residents gathered to celebrate, according to The Pasco Express.

"It is safe to say that all who attended the opening felt a touch of pride in the city whose growth has made this possible," reported The Pasco Express. "It is one of the initial steps in a series of development which mean better things for Pasco."

Judge B. B. Horrigan requested $10,000 from Carnegie. The city of Pasco paid $2,900 for the project, according to Herald archives. C. Lewis Wilson of Chehalis designed the building, and later designed the Franklin County Courthouse.

The building cost $9,498, equipment cost $2,500 and the land cost $1,000, according to Herald archives.

The historical society still is planning how to celebrate the building's centennial. Webb said the group likely will hold a birthday party for the building June 29, exactly 100 years after its first dedication.

And Webb hopes that a street lamp like the one that used to light up the sidewalk outside of the Carnegie building can be installed as part of the centennial.

Although the lamp can be seen in original pictures of the library, it went missing while the building still was a library, according to museum records.

The street lamp had a cluster of three bulbs on the top of its post and was the same style seen throughout Pasco at the time, Webb said.

Longtime historical society member Ed Goulet purchased one of the lamp posts to donate to the museum, she said.

But the street lamp needs to be restored and the society will need to work with the city of Pasco to get permission to install it, she said.

"We think that we will be able to swing it," Webb said.