Fact Friday 41 - First Baptist Church and Carnegie Library

Fact Friday 41 - First Baptist Church and Carnegie Library

Happy Friday everyone! (Except for us Duke fans <sad face>)

As next-door neighbors, First Baptist Church was one of the city’s first churches and Carnegie Library was the city’s first public library building.

Pictured in this photograph (above) from the early 1900s are the First Baptist Church and the Carnegie Free Library, two of Charlotte’s finest early twentieth century buildings on North Tryon Street. Built in 1884, the church was home to one of the oldest and most influential congregations in Charlotte. By 1907, the congregation of First Baptist had grown so large that plans were made to build a new $50,000 building with seating for over a thousand people. The new church, which combined Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine Revival architecture, was completed in 1909.

The roots of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library go back to 1891, when a group of prominent citizens formed a subscription library called the Charlotte Library and Literary Association. The library operated above a bookstore on South Tryon and eventually occupied two rooms in the temporary city hall on Fifth Street. The Free Library and its imposing classical façade was built in 1903 with funds donated to the city by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, giving the library its first true home.

This 1909 postcard shows the same scene with the newer First Baptist, completed that year and distinguished by its impressive central dome.

Expanded collections and increased use of he library by the public caused it to outgrow its facility, and in 1952 Mecklenburg County voters approved bonds for a new main library and nine additional branches. The Carnegie Library was demolished and a new library opened on the same site to the public in 1956 (below), which was extensively remodeled and heightened by two stories in 1989 (above). The original Carnegie Library’s neighbor almost didn’t survive either. When the congregation left the 1909 incarnation of the First Baptist Church in the 1970s the city rallied to preserve it, and in 1976 it reopened as the 720-seat McGlohon Theater. The reborn church and its associated buildings form the centerpiece of Spirit Square, a community center promoting arts education and local community theater performances, as well as hosting national touring acts and speakers.

This 1958 photograph shows the newly built modernist-style public library building that replaced the Carnegie Library. It would be transformed in 1989.

Until next week!


Email me at chris@704Shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

Information taken from: 

Charlotte Then & Now, 2013, Brandon D. Lunsford


“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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