The Watertown Public Opinion headlines read: Carnegie grant obtained! Watertown is a recipient of one of the over 2,500 Carnegie Grants given by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie!
In September, 1903, a petition for “maintenance of a public library” with 616 signers was presented to the City Council. The law required signatures of more than one-half the legal voters of the city. The City Council petitioned the Andrew Carnegie Library Building Fund for a building. The Carnegie Foundation would give the money on condition that the city raise $100 for the maintenance of the library each year for each $1,000 given. The petition was granted with the city promising to support the library. The city accepted Carnegie’s offer of $10,000. L.E. Brickell, Jr., constructed the library for $12,242.
The Carnegie Free Library, designed in neo-classical architecture, first opened to the public on November 29, 1906. Early names on the Board include W. R. Thomas, J. B. Hanten, D. T. Walker, George Case, J. J. Clutton, H. L. Sheldon, Mrs. Sheafe, Mrs. W. D. Morris and Mrs. S. H. Addison. The mezzanine was added in 1941 for additional space. The Children’s Department located in the basement was added in 1949. A weekly Story Hour was held on Saturday mornings.
Not only books, but records, magazines, pamphlets and pictures were loaned. View-masters and a three-speed record player were aids. Special sections were the Watertown and South Dakota Historical Collections which included most of the newspapers ever published in Watertown. Services included answering reference questions, loaning books, magazines, pamphlets, pictures, record players and 16, 8, and 32 millimeter projectors.
In 1948, the board discussed the possibility of starting a new fund for a new building. In 1967, the library moved to a larger location. The Carnegie Library served the citizens of Watertown for over sixty years. The Carnegie building subsequently was used by the Watertown Youth Group (1970) for a recreation center and in 1974, the Codington County Historical Society was given the use of the building for $1 a year.
Excerpts from Codington County Historical Society Archives Watertown Public Opinion Archives