Housed in the original Lexington Public Library building, the Carnegie Center loves to share in the rich history of our location. The library building is one of 2,509 Carnegie libraries built between 1883 and 1929 with money donated by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The building’s cornerstone was laid in 1902 and opened to the public in 1905. This library was loved and enjoyed by many Lexingtonians throughout the 1980’s. Our patrons fondly remember climbing to the children’s library section, which is now home to the Center’s Tutoring Room.
After Lexington Public Library moved to a larger location in 1989, the original Carnegie library building quickly deteriorated, showing signs of neglect. Some people wanted to demolish the building; others wanted to renovate it for condominiums. People like Lexington Mayor Scotty Baesler wanted to see the building restored for public use. The Mayor created a committee of community leaders and asked them to find a new use for the building. In keeping with the beliefs of the original funder, Andrew Carnegie, the group decided to create a community learning and arts center like no other in the country.
In a state known for illiteracy and where school test scores on writing are low, there are also a surprising number of nationally recognized writers. This knowledge helped shape the Carnegie program design.
After an extensive restoration, the building was ready for its new resident: The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. First Lady Barbara Bush, who was the guest speaker at the 1992 dedication, said, “This center is going to reach out to everyone—families, workers, students, and teachers. And that’s what communities throughout the nation need to learn to do.” Since that time, the center has helped thousands of people of all ages, races, income levels, and educational backgrounds with their goals for writing, reading, and learning new things.