100 years ago, Carnegie donation led to Middletown system
One of the richest men in history was also one of the most giving.
At the time of his death in 1919, steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s donations totaled more than $370 million, according to the New York Times. A portion of that money was used to pay for the construction of more than 1,600 libraries in the United States, as well as nine within the City of Cincinnati and others nearby in Lebanon, Middletown and Ripley.
The library in Middletown, which opened Jan. 2, 1913, was built with the help of Carnegie’s $20,000 donation. He agreed to make the donation, as long as the city would provide a site, books and $2,000 a year for its maintenance.
The initial staff of four employees and the collection of 3,335 books eventually grew into the MidPointe Library System, which has nearly a half-million materials at its three current library locations in Middletown, West Chester and Trenton.
“(Carnegie) was a steel magnet, a self-made millionaire and immigrant from Scotland who moved here when he was child and basically educated himself in his local library,” said Steve Mayhugh, manager of MidPointe Library West Chester. “It was his belief that education and reading would help all citizens.”
To share its history and celebrate its centennial, the library system will hold a community event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the West Chester branch. The event will feature an opportunity to participate in a video that will share visitors’ favorite memories of the library system.
“Our initial collection consisted of a little more than 3,000 books; now we offer half a million items,’’ said MidPointe spokeswoman Cari Hillman. “This is something that in 1913 they could have never imagined.”
Just two months after the Middletown Library opened, March 25-26, water from the Great Miami River flooded the city and the surrounding region. The building stood strong and almost avoided damage until a horse, which was swept up in the flood, crashed into a basement door. The impact provided an opening for water to fill the lower floor, resulting in the loss of records and other papers.
The water, however, never reached the main floor and the library reopened April 10. After that, it served the community until Middletown’s current library, at 125 S. Broad St., opened in 1983.Before the opening of the current Middletown location, the library system also served the rural parts of Butler County beginning in 1938 by way of bookmobiles. The bookmobiles, whose appearance changed through the years from a 1930s milk truck to a 1960s charter bus, served Butler County until the late 1970s.
Also in the 1970s, Trenton opened its first library before moving to its current location, 21 E. State St., in 2000.
Meanwhile, before Union Township became West Chester in 2000, the Lakota Board of Education offered space in a classroom in Hopewell School to house a branch in 1967. The “library outlet” featured a collection of 3,500 books that were lined up on two folding tables.
Eventually, another branch was established in 1974 off Cincinnati-Columbus, until a larger branch opened on Cox Road in 1983. Among those at the dedication was a 33-year-old Union Township trustee named John Boehner.
The current West Chester library on Centre Pointe Drive opened in 2009.