The Carnegie Library was D.C.’s first public library and served as the city’s central library for more than 70 years.
The structure was donated by Andrew Carnegie – an industrialist and philanthropist who funded some 3,000 libraries – and opened in 1903.
When it opened, the library was D.C.’s first unsegregated public building. It had a combination of “closed stacks,” where librarians retrieved books, and “open shelves” for public access. It also had several large reading rooms, each devoted to a different subject.
From the start, it was too small. The library was designed to house 250,000 books, but when it opened, it already had 382,352. Since the books were relocated to MLK Library in 1972, the building has been the subject of several never-built proposals, including a music museum and the International Spy Museum. At one point, it even held The City Museum of Washington, but that closed in less than two years.
Finally, in 2016, the city agreed to lease the building to Apple, who restored the quickly eroding facade and converted the space into what it is today. The second floor is also home to the DC History Center.
On one hand, I despise that one of D.C.’s most historic and community-centered buildings is now a global conglomerate, but on the other, I am happy to see the building restored and taken care of. What do you think? Was it right to make the old library an Apple Store?