A library has stood on this corner since 1903, when Charlotte’s first public library was funded with a $25,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie. The original charter also provided for the independently-run Brevard Street Library, North Carolina’s first public library for the city’s Black population during a time of segregation. In 1915 Carnegie made a second gift, adding a children’s department, meeting rooms and a theater to the Tryon Street location.
Davidson resident Lois McConnell McCallum James is 100 years old. She remembers that library from her childhood. She was let off at the steps of the Carnegie Library on Tryon Street while her father delivered butter and buttermilk to the hotels. Her favorite books were a series called The Twins, about siblings who travelled the world. She’d read about their adventures from her family’s farm, where a good story often distracted her from her cow-sitting duties.
The original Carnegie Library was replaced in 1956 with a larger building hailed at the time as a “modern architectural gem” and nine branch locations to serve the growing city. A three-story addition opened in 1989 with the first computerized catalog, providing the public with online access to the system’s collection. This is the building you see today.
For 118 years, a Library on the corner of 6th and Tryon has been a constant, and the next iteration of Main Library will serve generations to come in the place that started it all, where Lois McConnell McCallum James got her start as a lifelong reader.
As Lois says, long live the Library!
This audio tour was created using resources from your Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room.