Oregon City refers to itself a the “end of the Oregon Trail”. Rightfully so, the former capital is the oldest settlement from the European migration west of the Mississippi River.
The Carnegie Library has stood on the block at 7th & John Adams Streets, mostly unchanged since its construction back in 1911. William Howard Taft was President. The Philadelphia Athletics beat the New York Giants in the World Series. Like many city green areas in early America, the wooded lot was originally covered in an impressive grove of elm trees that have since succumbed to disease. While the brick building remained a stunning example of early, 20th Century architecture, by the dawn of the 21st, it was no longer able to keep pace with a modern public’s demands.
On Saturday, October 15th 2016, amid a swirling wind and rain storm, a newly remodeled Carnegie Library opened to the public after decades of political wrangling, years of careful planning, and months of careful construction. City planners were meticulous in working toward two seemingly disparate goals: modernizing the library’s functionality while maintaining the original, antique small town feeling. Few city openings have come with such anticipation.
A look around the inside of the atrium offers a view of those intersections. A gorgeous metal sculpture hangs from the ceiling; east of computer banks, the brick rear wall of the original building offers reminders of the past; up a staircase, stacks of books, computers, and a series of state of the art AV meeting rooms. The main doors remain at the top of the familiar short staircase, giving way to what feels like the foyer to a grand palace of learning. Many writers have lauded the library’s place in a community, from Charles Bukowski to Susan Sontag. Jorge Luis Borges envisioned that paradise was “a kind of library”.
This is the kind of design that those writers were dreaming of. Oregon City, crown of the old territory, with a new jewel to brag about.
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