The idea of creating a public library in Greeley began in 1870. Our first public library was located on 8th Street in downtown Greeley in what was a meeting house for the Union Colonists. Through the years, the library operated out of several different locations. By 1900, a letter was written to billionaire Andrew Carnegie requesting funding for the construction of a new public library building.
However, Carnegie did not supply the funds due to the wishes of many Greeley residents who did not want a “Carnegie-funded” library. A 1903 Greeley Tribune article read, “Old Andy Carnegie can have no library or other monument to himself in Lincoln park or any other place in Greeley.”
Instead, the residents of Greeley banded together to build their own institution of literature and learning. From 1907 to 1908 a stately library building, fondly called “a rose in stone”, was erected just north of Lincoln Park at the cost of $22,000 due largely to the personal efforts of local residents. A committee was formed from one member of each local club or organization in the city, such as the Want To Know (WTK) club, and met often to brainstorm ways to fund the building of a new library.
One fundraiser was the sale of bricks. Adults paid one dollar per brick which entitled them to a lifetime library card. Children also bought bricks. One young boy used his entire earnings from painting a barn to buy bricks.
On January 13, 1909 the library opened its doors to the public. The interior finish was in red oak with all the furnishings in white oak. Ms. Florence Hayes became the first librarian to serve, and by 1915 the library had over 10,000 books. Over the next couple of decades many improvements were made to the library building. Fluorescent lights were added, a mezzanine was built, and walls were painted with creative murals.
During World War II, the library gave free service to soldiers stationed at the local college. It also collected books for army camps nearby. In 1943, 1000 books were sent to the air force base in Colorado Springs, and a library branch was opened at P.O.W. Camp 202 west of Greeley.
By the 1960s the library found itself to be extremely overcrowded and discussions began on the construction of another new library. In June 1966 ground was broken for the new city complex, which would house a large public library. It was completed in July 1968, the same year that the grand stone library was torn down. This new Greeley Public Library later became the Lincoln Park Library branch of the High Plains Library District.
Originally printed in the Greeley Tribune, September 30, 2013
Written by Caroline Blackburn, former Archivist
(Editor’s note: The Lincoln Park Library branch was torn down in 2016. The replacement branch for the downtown location is currently being constructed at 6th St. and 8th Ave. and is set to open in 2023 under the name LINC.)