Brownsville TN former Carnegie Library



Chamber of Commerce

The one-story Classical Revival former Carnegie Library was funded “under the usual conditions” by Andrew Carnegie after “Mayor John O. Bonner [sic] has been untiring in his efforts to secure the donation from Mr. Carnegie.  He conceived the movement, put it into execution, and to him is due the credit” (The Tennessean, Dec. 18, 1909, p. 1).  “The usual” meant in exchange for the $7, 500 cost of erecting the building, the town provided the lot, $750 per year for maintenance of the library, and free usage.

front elevation

While Mayor J. O. Bomer did indeed write to Carnegie and request funding, others were involved in the development of a public library in Brownsville.  As early as 1903, the Brownsville Book Club had “under consideration a plan for a public library…but has not yet fully matured its plans” (The Tennessean, Mar. 21, 1903, p. 8). In 1936 the library had about 4,000 books, including a “modern encyclopedia” (Jackson Sun, Jul. 23, 1936, p. 4).

But the years have taken a toll on the historic building…basement leaks, some of the bricks are cracked and falling and there’s not enough room for all the books. (Jackson Sun, Apr. 24, 1990, p. 1)

Although at one point after the new library was constructed, demolition was on the discussion agenda–after all, that basement leak was first documented in 1952!–the Save the Carnegie Committee prevailed.  The 3, 873 square-foot Brownsville Carnegie was restored/renovated in 1994 at a cost of $245,000 (Jackson Sun, June 1, 1994).  It is currently in use as home to the Chamber of Commerce.

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6 Responses to Brownsville TN former Carnegie Library

  1. I know you have Texas roots, so my first thought on this was of Brownsville, Texas. But cannot imagine the Tennesseean newspaper covering a Texas library. So, is there a Brownsville in Tennessee?


  2. Sheryl says:

    It wonderful how communities come together – both years ago and now – to support their local library.


    • Suzassippi says:

      The library was a treasure when I was growing up, both in my school and in my town. I spent many an afternoon in the stacks from the time I was 7 until I completed my PhD.


    • Suzassippi says:

      I know what you mean, Sheryl. There is part of me that loves nothing more than thumbing pages in a musty smelling old book or journal, reading an index file to locate my topic. But, I have to confess, it is faster and easier now, and certainly more convenient. At least there are many digitized versions of “real books” that can be seen on the Internet. I just used a 1917 social work textbook in one of my classes. 🙂


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