Library Stop: Carnegie-Stout Public, Dubuque, Iowa

Henry L. Stout (bio)

Carnegie-Stout Public Library
360 W. 11th Street
Dubuque, IA 52001

Carnegie grant date: January 12, 1901
Grant amount: $60,000
Library opened to the public: October 20, 1902
Architects: Williamson & Spencer
Style: Neo-Classical Revivalist
Addition built: 1981
Current holdings: 270,000 volumes; 600 periodicals & newspapers

The Carnegie-Stout library is the largest Carnegie library in Iowa that’s still in use. Some of the early Carnegie grant libraries haven’t survived because they were either poorly designed or not well-maintained (or they’ve been re-purposed), so it’s a testament to Dubuque’s generations of book lovers that this library still stands so proudly and serves its citizens.

According to the Encyclopedia Dubuque, it’s also the first public library in the Midwest to achieve LEED green building status and the only public library in the country which is also on the National Register of Historic Places to achieve this status.

Here’s a brief description of the library interior from the City of Dubuque’s website:

The interior is elaborated with classical plaster denticulation, ornate copper railing and light fixtures, marble flooring and varnished white oak woodwork. An elaborate central rotunda with a 13-foot diameter light well in the dome facilitates circulation in the building. There are eight circular Corinthian columns with frieze and cornice ornamentation on the second floor of the rotunda area. 

Visiting the Carnegie library of Dubuque wasn’t on our agenda when we took a daylong, mini-road trip earlier this month. We’d planned to have dinner in Galena, IL, but the weather was so unseasonably warm that the town was over-crowded with tourists, so we drove on to Dubuque in search of food. While driving around downtown Dubuque, we spotted the library (who wouldn’t notice this huge, gorgeous building?) and had to stop and visit it (naturally, of course).

Just after I snapped a picture of the front of the library, a steady stream of people started coming out of the new addition. It was then that I noticed it was the dreaded hour of 5pm, the time when most libraries close on Saturday. I made it to the front door, but only in time for the nice librarian inside to wave at me and tell me they were, indeed, closed for the day. So close!

This is one library that I’ll go back to visit. For one, it’s an early Carnegie library. For two, I really want to see the interior details. For three, I wouldn’t mind another dinner at Timmerman’s Supper Club.

View from across the street. The original front doors are no longer the entrance.


The new addition on the left.


Andrew Carnegie did not stipulate that his name be used in or on the libraries built with his money, but I’ve read that it was common practice for earlier Carnegie grant libraries to use his name or have a plaque next to the front entrance.


Hooray for the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966! National Register


Column detail.


I love iron gates like this on libraries–it gives them a dangerous, potentially haunted edginess.


More architectural detail.
The entire library. New & old living in harmony.


Interior picture from Library Journal. (source link)
This interior shot from the library’s Facebook page. (source link)

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