Published 10:17 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

The history at the LeRoy Public Library isn’t just in its books — it’s in its bricks.

Built in 1915, it is the only in-tact example of a small town Carnegie Classical Revival-style library building in Mower County.

“It’s a beautiful, beautiful, gorgeous building,” director of the library Rhonda Barnes said.

The small, masonry one-and-a-half story structure is not a true Carnegie, though, as the real ones are only those that rank in the 2,500 built with money donated by Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The LeRoy Public Library was built as a result of an organizational effort of “The Ladies Book Club.”

Women’s clubs were instrumental in the founding at least 75 percent of the nation’s libraries, some with grants from Carnegie.

The structure in LeRoy is faced in rough, red-brown-orange brick with a red grout, limestone trim and a wooden portico, painted white. Two limestone columns with Tuscan capitals flank the original oak front door.

In November of 1965, the library suffered a fire and lost almost 5,000 books. Nonetheless, the interior remains close to its original appearance and the exterior has held its integrity.

“It’s quite a tourist attraction here,” Barnes said. She noted that sight-seeers can also walk down the street to First Bank of LeRoy, which dates to 1914 and was built by Purcell and Elmsie, students of Louis Sullivan.

The LeRoy Library is open for viewing and tours during regular library hours, Monday through Thursday 1 to 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For information, contact the LeRoy Public Library at (507) 324-5641 or just visit the landmark at 605 N. Broadway Ave. in LeRoy.

To learn more about other Mower County landmarks, look for the Herald’s 2010 Profile special section included in today’s paper.