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Fairfield, Iowa's, Unique Carnegie Library

The history of Fairfield's red St. Louis brick library building reaches back to 1852, when some of the town's prominent citizens formed the Jefferson County Library Association with an end toward establishing a permanent library. Shortly thereafter this group opened a town library of some five hundred volumes. This privately run institution spent the next 40 years moving from location to location, slowly building its collection and usership under the care of this same group of town philanthropists.

In 1891, one of Fairfield's most auspicious citizens, Senator James Falconer Wilson, approached Pittsburgh steel- industry magnate Andrew Carnegie to request Carnegie's help in a building a permanent library for the town's collection. With Carnegie's donation of $30,000, the library was constructed in 1893 and named the Jefferson County Library. It was first of hundreds of Carnegie-funded libraries to be built west of the Mississippi river and served as a model for later projects.

The Jefferson County Library still stands today, though it is no longer used for its original purpose. Photographs from the period, however, can give us a glimpse of what the interior of the library looked like in the 1890s. The interior photographs used for the virtual tour were taken in 1894 and compiled in an album that was then sent to the Carnegie Corporation in recognition of its gift to the community of Fairfield.