Photo courtesy of Ballard Historical Society
The inside of the Ballard Carnegie Free Library in the early 1900s, when it still functioned as a library.

Scenes from Old Ballard: Old Carnegie Free Library

Driving down Market St, it's a hard sight to miss. The Old Carnegie Free Library sticks out like a sore, architecturally significant thumb.

Back in September, the Ballard Carnegie Free Library was nominated for official city landmark status, which supporters say could ensure its future. Next week, the library will go in front of the Landmarks Preservation Board to be designated, the final stage in securing landmark status.

This picture, courtesy of the Ballard Historical Society, is of the inside of the library back when it was used for its original purpose. Stepping through the front door and up to the information desk where the librarian sat forebodingly is a memory which many from the old days have held fondly, according to Ballard News-Tribune Columnist Peggy Sturdivant, who had the opportunity to interview long-time residents and immigrants.

The library, which was originally built in 1903-04 with funding from Andrew Carnegie, served as a gathering place, especially for Scandinavian immigrant community. According to the historic nomination document prepared by Larry Johnson, the library quickly took on a classroom function, teaching communicative tools and cultural background necessary for transitioning into a new country. In addition to being a place full of books, it was used to teach English, naturalization and first aid.

The library stopped being a library somewhere in the mid-60s, when a new one was built and when Karoline Morrison and Dennis Beal purchased the building. It has been used to house an antique store, a restaurant and now a pub, as well as an office space.

The inside looks much different now. With the tenancy of the Kangaroo and the Kiwi, an Australian-themed pub, bathrooms have been installed, a door has been knocked out, windows have been replaced, and the interior has been repainted. It was for this reason that members of the Historic Landmarks Board felt the interior could be excluded from the landmark nomination.

Meanwhile, the exterior has mostly kept the same facade as it has for over a century. Side-by-side pictures of before-and-after have a striking similarity. They reveal that the owner, Karoline Morrison, has been careful to preserve the building's integrity for the over four decades decades she's owned the library.

The landmark designation meeting will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and is open to the public. It will take place at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, 40th Floor, Rm. 4050/60.

The meeting starts at 3:30 p.m., but the Ballard Carnegie Free Library is the seventh item on the agenda, so plan accordingly. The full agenda can be found here.

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