Built in 1905 and financed by a $50,000 donation by the steel manufacturer and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, a Beaux-Arts Neoclassical edifice served as the public library for the city of Anderson until 1987. In 1998, it was reopened as the Anderson Fine Arts Center for the enrichment of the community with artistic exhibitions, programming, and special events. Today it is known as the Anderson Museum of Art.
Andrew Carnegie believed that enlightenment was the panacea for the troubles of the human race. Libraries, as repositories of knowledge free and open to the public, could provide knowledge to the masses through their collections. Through his efforts, over 28,000 public libraries were opened to the public in communities through the United States, among them being Anderson, Indiana.
Originally, the Carnegie Public Library in Anderson was built for fireplace heating and gas lighting. The city of Anderson requested an additional $10,000 from Mr. Carnegie to install a coal-fired heating system and electricity that he denied. Apparently, Mr. Carnegie felt that such a modification was unnecessary to his gift, which was about overall enlightenment rather than actual infrastructure. Nonetheless, local fund-raising successfully solicited the necessary funds and the latter systems were installed by the library’s opening date of April 20, 1905.
To the entire citizenry of Anderson, the Carnegie Public Library would be a key institution of learning and leisure for the next 82 years. As the population of Anderson grew and became better educated and more well-rounded as well as more diverse, the Carnegie Public Library offered support for the community.