North Manchester Public Library, Historic Landmark

Registration form prepared by Nancy L. Hanson, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, on November 7, 1995.

Location: 204 West Main Street, North Manchester

Narrative Description

The North Manchester Public Library is a two-story Arts and Crafts style building with a basement. Built of dark red brick, it is rectangular in shape and has a low-pitched, side gabled roof of red Spanish tile. Limestone trim tops the parapet roof line at the ends of the building. Unenclosed, projecting eaves create a wide overhang, and along the horizontal edges are exposed roof rafters. Massive piers with sloping sides embellish the corners of the building.

The library stands on a small, level lot on the north side of the main street through North Manchester. Originally built in a residential neighborhood one block west of the main business district, it is at this time a mixed residential/commercial area. The lot is an open space except for a few trees along the street.

The building rests on a limestone foundation. A limestone string course embellishes the front facade and side elevations of the building, serving as the sill for the lower windows on the front. Ornamental rows of brick form three rowlock string courses at the top of the second story on the front facade and side elevations of the building.

The front facade is asymmetrical and features a two-story projecting front entry with a front facing parapet gable roof line. Four bays of windows are located to the right of the entry. The first floor windows are uneven sash windows with a shallow, slightly pointed lintel arch at the top; the second floor windows are one-over-one sash windows. Decorative brick outlines the shallow arch at the top of the doorway and the first-floor windows, and also serves as the sill for the second-floor windows. Additional brick detailing is found under the limestone trim at the roof line. The wood and glass front door is framed by multi-pane sidelight windows; above the door is a clear glass transom which also features the shallow arch at the top.

Three stair-stepped fixed sash windows along the west elevation delineate the interior stairway. Four fixed sash windows are grouped together in the center of the second floor, each is topped with a double transom. Above the upper transom windows is the shallow, slightly pointed arch found in other accents on the building.

The north (rear) elevation is very plain. An exterior chimney is located on the northwest corner of the building. In the same corner are the bulkhead doors which lead to the storm cellar. A two-story fire escape, added just east of the chimney, leads to a second floor exit. Four bays of windows are located to the east of the fire escape. The first floor windows are uneven sash windows with shallow, slightly pointed lintel arches at the top; the second floor windows are one-over-one sash windows.

The east elevation features the grouping of four fixed sash windows topped with double transoms that are found on the second floor of the west elevation. Placed in the center of the second floor, these two sets of windows on the west and east elevations are the only symmetrical features on the building. The two middle windows on the first floor are shorter windows, indicating that extra room was left on the inside to accommodate taller bookshelves beneath the windows.

The interior of the library is classic Arts and Crafts, strongly reflected in the beautiful oak woodwork. A stairwell to the left of the entryway leads down to the basement, and also upstairs to the Children's Reading Room. Doors and windows are framed with heavy wood trim; square balusters form a spindle grill balustrade, and the square newel post is trimmed with projecting tenons. The floor in the foyer is covered with an aggregate tile; dark green linoleum covers the floor in the rest of the building. Walls are painted plaster.

Three rooms are found in the basement, a furnace and utility room/storm cellar, a large room which stores reference materials and periodicals, and a restroom. The basement floor is cement; a small area has been carpeted.

On the main floor are the Main Reading Room, the library office, and a restroom. The original circulation desk is just to the left of the inner door which leads to the reading room. Lining the outer walls are original bookshelves. Through the years, reading tables and chairs have been removed and additional bookshelves have been added in the center of the room.

Located on the second floor is a small stage area at the west end, a storage room, and the Children's Reading Room. A dropped ceiling has been added to accommodate the fluorescent lighting.

Many of the Carnegie Libraries in Indiana have been demolished or significantly altered. Except for the aluminum storm windows on the second-floor windows, the addition of the fire escape on the north (rear) elevation, and the removal of the stained-glass transom over the front door, there are no visible alterations to the original exterior of the North Manchester Public Library. The second floor community meeting space was altered in 1929 to provide space for the Children's Reading Room, and fluorescent lighting has been added in both reading rooms. The exterior and the interior of the building are in excellent condition.

In order to better serve the community of North Manchester, the library is being moved to a new, much larger building. The original library building is for sale, but has been protected by an easement agreement between the North Manchester Public Library and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

Narrative Significance

The North Manchester Public Library is an excellent example of an early 20th Century small-town library and is eligible for the National Register under Criteria A and C. The library was the culmination of a movement to establish a free public library in North Manchester and has served as the only public library for the community since its construction in 1912. The building retains its original character, is a worthy representative of an Arts and Crafts building, and is unique in a community where most of the surrounding buildings are Italianate in style.

Between 1886 and 1919, Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation provided donations to build 1,679 public library buildings in 1,412 communities in the United States. Carnegie's dedication to libraries and books was influence by his father and by his business background. He felt giving a city funds for a library was a good investment because he required the city to pledge to furnish the site and to maintain the library; thus, the city's investment was greater than his.

The first public library in North Manchester was started by the North Manchester Woman's Club in 1908 and was located in the Town Hall. After a book shower was held for the library (one hundred books were donated), members of the Club took turns acting as librarian. The first library board was appointed in June of 1909. In March, 1910, Andrew Carnegie agreed to donate $10,000 for a library, provided that the library board furnish the lot and pay $1,000 each year toward the upkeep of the building. Private citizens raised $1,500 to purchase the Harter lot on Main Street, and a building committee was appointed to work with the library board to select contractors and to oversee the building project. Designs for the building were accepted in January, 1911; construction began in April, and the North Manchester Public Library opened in April of 1912.

Architecturally, the North Manchester Public Library is not typical of others built in the Midwest. While most Carnegie Libraries are one and a half story, symmetrical, classical buildings with grand exterior staircases, the North Manchester Public Library is a two-story, asymmetrical, Arts and Crafts building with a ground-floor entrance. The most significant original feature of the building design was the second floor community meeting space. Other communities requested similar space in their libraries, but were denied this option. Of the 164 Carnegie Libraries built in Indiana, ten (including the North Manchester Public Library) were designed by Patton and Miller with four being attributed to Grant C. Miller.

Features that contribute to the Arts and Crafts style of the building exterior are: the simple horizontal lines, the durable materials, the image it presents as a massive, strong building, the functional layout, the low-pitched roof, and the recessed windows and door, upon which sunlight creates shadows and depth. It is the only Arts and Crafts building in the area; homes in the immediate area and buildings in the nearby business district are primarily Italianate in style. The library was rated "Outstanding" in the Wabash County Historic Sites and Structures Inventory published in 1982.

A 1990 survey of Carnegie Libraries in the United States revealed that many have been demolished or significantly altered. This makes the North Manchester Public Library especially important because it retains its original integrity architecturally and has served as the only public library in the North Manchester community for 83 years. It is notable in the community, state, and nation as a fine example of an Arts and Crafts building and is unique among Carnegie Libraries because of its two-story, asymmetrical design.