The Library That Neva Got Built.

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The Carnegie Library, Renton, Washington.

Neva Bostwick left Seattle in 1906 and moved to the Earlington neighborhood of west Renton. She must have been a bookworm, because I've come across several accounts of her being a dedicated student and an avid user of the Seattle library.

Ironically 1906 was the year the new Carnegie Library opened in Seattle and served over 20,000 locals its first year. Yet, Neva could have made the 12 mile trek north by catching the new Interurban electric rail.

Renton had just incorporated in 1901 and was an industrious little blue collar town with nearly 3,000 citizens. If you lived here in 1906 it was likely you worked in the coal mines, the Denny Renton Clay and Coal Company, then the largest paving brick manufacturer in the world, or at the Pacific Car and Foundry building railway cars and logging equipment.

At the time Renton didn’t have a public library, just a small cooperative library established by the Renton Mine Association in 1903 on the 2nd floor of Brendel's Drug Store downtown. So Neva Bostwick got to work, made some inquiries, did some research, and got citizens interested in the idea of a new library. She applied to the Carnegie Foundation and through her efforts the city was awarded a $10,000 grant in 1913.

The old Carnegie Library, 1914, Renton, Washington.

As typical to this very day the citizens of Renton were extremely divided about where the new library should be located. They almost lost the grant due to arguments over the land downtown being too expensive when Ignazio and Jennie Sartori donated 3 large lots to the city that would become the site for the library and Liberty Park. I don’t think the bickering has ever stopped but the Renton Carnegie Library designed by Harold H. Ginnold* did get built and it opened on March 11, 1914.

Neva Bostwick Douglas lived to see the library thrive for many years. In fact by the 1930’s it was already apparent the facility was over utilized and busting at the seams. It wasn’t until 1964 that Renton citizens finally approved a bond issue to build the new library.

The Renton Carnegie Library was torn down in 1968 after the new Renton Library, nearly adjacent, was built in 1966 over the Cedar River. The old library was located where the tennis courts are today in the park. I spent a lot of time there as a kid from grade school through high school. We lived in Earlington and I remember a lot of trips across town on my bike to check out books. Born in 1874, Neva Bostwick Douglas passed away in 1973.

Renton has long history of supporting libraries in its downtown area

History of the Renton Libraries

King Count Library System: History of the Renton Library

* Harold H. Ginnold

Next... The Library Over the River.

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René Fabre

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John McCormack
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Rene -  You my friend are a wealth of information!  Are you a member of the Historic Committee?  If not you should be.

Aug 27, 2012 11:56 AM #1
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Rene Fabre
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Not yet, but knowing the way hyper-local blogging works, I'm thinking an invite is probably soon to come. :O)

Aug 27, 2012 11:59 AM #2
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Todd Clark
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I didn't even know we had coal mines here on this side of the cascades. Do they have pictures around the library of the old days and some of the people who visited the library?

Aug 27, 2012 04:35 PM #3
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Rene Fabre
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Tons of them... We had a bunch of them here in Newcastle, Renton, Black Diamond... Some of them were still in operation up to the early 1960's... I'll have to dig into some of those old photos and blog about that. There's some great one's with some real characters in them.

Aug 27, 2012 04:54 PM #4
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Debbie Reynolds
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Rene, Thank you for the history on the library. Great local information.

Aug 27, 2012 06:22 PM #5
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Rene Fabre
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Hi Debbie, thanks! It's a pretty cool history and to think I lived so close to Neva in my old Earlington neighborhood and didn't know back then what she had accomplished.

Aug 27, 2012 06:26 PM #6
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