Norton Geology/Carnegie Library

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That whereas it has been found necessary, in order to conform to the wishes and conditions of Mr. Carnegie, in making the donation of forty thousand ($40,000) dollars, for the erection of a library building, to be erected on the campus of [Cornell College], to be used as a library building for the people of Mount Vernon…” - Resolution adopted by the Council of the Incorporated town of Mount Vernon, IA. April 16, 1903.

In March of 1903, two Cornell College Trustees, acting under the direction of President William Fletcher King, approached philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and convinced him to finance the construction of a library building for the growing college.[1] The library at the time, which was located in a corner of Old Sem, had become too small to house the college’s book collection, which stood at approximately 25,000 volumes, mostly filled with reference materials and some current newspapers and magazines.[2] The August 1904 Cornell College Bulletin noted the rapidly expanding collection of books, and an increase in demand for the use of the library made it a high priority to have the new library building erected sooner rather than later.[3]

On September 13, 1905, the new library building was dedicated and opened for the college and the residents of Mount Vernon.[4] Andrew Carnegie donated $50,000 (an increase from his earlier offer) for the construction of the building on the condition that it would be a joint town/college library, as he felt college-only libraries excluded the working public.[5] The placement of the building was carefully selected to ensure the library would be accessible to both town and college residents.[6]

The completed building stood two stories tall and was a rectangular 86 x 36 feet. There were several reading and resource rooms on all floors, large windows, and a stack room (hidden from view) where 70,000 volumes could be stored.[7] A wide foyer welcomed visitors to the library, where they could opt for periodicals and reference materials on the eastern side of the building (complete with a reading room), or move west to a smaller room with materials for children.[8] Upstairs was a similar layout, but contained books primarily for student and faculty use.[9] Architecturally, the building features many elements characteristic of Carnegie’s philanthropic libraries such as steel-reinforced concrete and a brick facade.[10] The stairway leading up into the main entryway was another example of typical architecture for a Carnegie building, as well as the traditional arch over the doorway.

In 1957, the old Carnegie Library was vacated in favor of the newly built Russell D. Cole Library, and remodeled to host the chemistry department, as it had outgrown the space it had previously shared in Law Hall.[11] But in 1976, the chemistry department moved out and into the newly constructed West Science.[12] The building stood mostly unused for almost a year until plans were hatched in late 1977 to renovate the old Carnegie Library to house the geology department as well as a museum of geology.[13]

Today, the building formerly known as the Carnegie Library and the Chemistry Building is called Norton Geology Building, after William Harmon Norton, the first geology professor at Cornell who contributed his energy, time, and impressive collection of fossils to the college.[14] Norton’s contributions were especially notable in that he was mostly self-taught, but still helped to rewrite some of the prevailing theories on Iowa geology, in addition to starting one of the first full geology programs in the Midwest.[15] 

The building opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 18, 1980 (Alumni Weekend), and was officially dedicated June 13, 1981.[16] Geology classes are taught next to the Anderson Geology Museum, also housed in Norton Geology, where the public is free to enter, reminiscent of its era as the public library.[17]

Images

Norton Geology

Norton Geology

A professor demonstrates the geologic time scale to students in the Anderson Geology Museum | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Norton Geology dedication ceremony

Norton Geology dedication ceremony

The plaque for Norton Geology is revealed at the opening ceremony Alumni weekend, 1980. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library

Students walk in and out of Carnegie Library during the school day. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Norton Geology

Norton Geology

An aerial view of the Chemistry Building, taken from the cupola of College Hall. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

"Jesus"

"Jesus"

A statue given by Dr. Dillon Bronson, in memory of his brother, Arthur Bronson, who died while trying to save a fellow student from drowning. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Library Cornell

Library Cornell

Students work at a table in one of the library rooms. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Library E, Cornell-Colleg [sic], 1920

Library E, Cornell-Colleg [sic], 1920

Periodicals are out for display in one of the main rooms of the library. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Cornell College library room

Cornell College library room

One of the busts donated by President King, sitting between a row of tables used by students for study. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Carnegie lib. Norton Geology.

Carnegie lib. Norton Geology.

Students gather for class on the lawn outside Carnegie Library (later Chemistry Building). | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Anthony Speer

Anthony Speer

Anthony Speer poses with the fountain donated to the college in memory of his wife. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown. View File Details Page

Carnegie Library about 1909

Carnegie Library about 1909

The Carnegie Library. Note: Smoke Stack-Originally heated by steam with its own heating plant. | Source: Cornell a College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Carnegie Library Building invitation

Carnegie Library Building invitation

An invitation for the formal opening of the new Carnegie Library. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Cornell College View File Details Page

Laying cornerstone of Carnegie Library 1904, from C Book Alta Anderson '14

Laying cornerstone of Carnegie Library 1904, from C Book Alta Anderson '14

Students make their way to the cornerstone ceremonies for Carnegie Library. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Laying cornerstone of Carnegie Library 1904, from C Book Alta Anderson '14

Laying cornerstone of Carnegie Library 1904, from C Book Alta Anderson '14

Men and women from the town gather under the shade during the cornerstone ceremony for Carnegie Library. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Laying cornerstone of Carnegie Library 1904, from C Book Alta Anderson '14

Laying cornerstone of Carnegie Library 1904, from C Book Alta Anderson '14

The laying of the cornerstone for Carnegie Library. | Source: Cornell College Archives | Creator: Unknown View File Details Page

Moving Day 1957

Moving Day 1957

Professor Walter Stromer (right front), Professor J. Harold Ennis (center back), and unidentified others carry books on library moving day, September 26, 1957. Students carried seven to eight armloads apiece and received free coffee and doughnuts, a picnic lunch, and a half-day without classes. | Source: Heywood, C. William, Richard Harlan Thomas. Cornell College: A Sesquicentennial History, 1853-2003. Vol. 1. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: WDG Communications Inc. 2004. | Creator: Joan Liffring-Suz Bourret View File Details Page

Norton Geology/Carnegie Library Cornerstone

Norton Geology/Carnegie Library Cornerstone

The cornerstone of Norton Geology/Carnegie Library, laid in 1904. | Creator: Hannah Robertson View File Details Page

Norton Geology/Carnegie Library

Norton Geology/Carnegie Library

The front side of Norton Geology, with the same arch and doorway that used to welcome people to the library prior to the construction of Cole Library. | Creator: Hannah Robertson View File Details Page

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Cite this Page:

Brad Kane '18 and Hannah Robertson '18, “Norton Geology/Carnegie Library,” Mount Vernon History Tours, accessed November 24, 2020, http://ccomeka.com/mtvhistoryFINALCLONE/items/show/23.

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