By Carly-Ann Anderson
March 1, 2017
The Park County Library was created in 1906 by the Women’s’ Club of Cody. The first location for the library was a small stone building about 20 square feet in area. It was one room, and the back wall was not a true wall, but rather a few boards nailed up where a wall should be. In 1910 the community pursued a Carnegie Public Library Grant, but the town had a population of just 1,132 and was considered too small for a Carnegie Library building. Also, in 1910 Cody was still a part of Big Horn County, and therefore not eligible for the grant as it was not a county seat.
In 1911, Park County split from Big Horn County, and in 1914 the Park County commissioners appointed a board for a public library system. The city council immediately applied again for a Carnegie Public Library Building grant. The local correspondent to the Carnegie Foundation for Cody was Reverend Morten Joslin. In a letter to Carnegie’s secretary, James Bertram, Joslin suggested the possibility of contacting Colonel W.F. Cody, who was visiting New York City at that time.
It’s possible that the famous “Buffalo Bill” himself had a hand in establishing a Carnegie Library in Cody. The application was successful and on April 13, 1914, Cody was awarded a grant for $15,000. The library opened in 1916. Librarian Mabel Wilkinson, who came from college at Greeley, Colorado, and who had assisted the Platte County free library in Wheatland, was secured to organize the collections.
The Park County Library Carnegie Building was demolished in 1965, less than 50 years after its construction, and replaced with a new building. In 2008, the Park County Public Library moved to its current facilities at 1500 Heart Mountain Avenue.
The Alliance for Historic Wyoming’s traveling Cowboy Carnegie exhibit will be on display at the Park County Public Library in Cody from Monday, February 6, through Friday, March 10, 2017.
The Cowboy Carnegies campaign is part of the AHW’s “This Place Matters” program, highlighting the importance of preserving historic buildings and oral history accounts of historic places and spaces in Wyoming. The program is made possible by a grant from the Wyoming Humanities Council.
Carnegie libraries were so named because of the philanthropic generosity of Andrew Carnegie. Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of 1,689 libraries across the country between 1889 and 1919 through construction grants to communities large and small. Wyoming had 16 Carnegie libraries, built between 1899 and 1917, a remarkable number for a state with a small and dispersed population. Today, just 10 Carnegie libraries remain standing, and five are still used as libraries. Carnegie libraries represent a fascinating era in community development in the United States, when philanthropic funds and local initiatives combined to create free public libraries that became centers of community learning and gathering.
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