Soldiers’ Home Library, Washington, DC

Soldiers’ Home Library

The Soldiers’ Home (now the Armed Forces Retirement Home) was built in 1851 using an endowment provided by U.S. General Winfield Scott. After his victory in the Mexican-American War, General Scott used proceeds gained through assessments on occupied Mexican towns and the sale of captured tobacco to build a home for retired and disabled American veterans. The Soldiers’ Home was built on a 500-acre tract of farm land know as Riggs Farm owned by George W. Riggs, founder of Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

In March 1877, an additional building meant to be used as a clubhouse, which was to house a bowling alley and billiards room, was added to the Soldiers’ Home campus. However, as construction began it was decided that the building was too elaborate to serve its original purpose and was, instead, opened as a library and reading room containing over 2,400 volumes. As the majority of the veterans living at the home were illiterate, a designated “reader” with a “good, clear voice” would read aloud the daily news, and other books and magazines. This earned the “reader” $7 a month, in addition to the monthly $7 pension he already earned.

The American Stick style building was razed in 1910.

Soldier’s Home Library, Washington, DC, Pre-1923 Postcard (front) (public domain)
Soldier’s Home Library, Washington, DC, Pre-1923 Postcard (back) (public domain)
From a 1903 Corps of Army Engineers map of the Soldiers’ Home, Washington, DC

The Public Library, Washington, DC (Also Known as the Carnegie Library)

1908 Card No. 84399 and 1909 Special Card No. 84399 Issued to Lewis Radcliffe

Library Card for the Public Library, Washington, DC (back)
Special Card (teacher) for the Public Library, Washington, DC (front)
Special Card (teacher) for the Public Library, Washington, DC (back)
Special Card (teacher) for the Public Library, Washington, DC (inside)

The Public Library, Washington, DC

The Public Library of Washington, DC, also known as The Carnegie Library or Central Public Library, is located in Mount Vernon Square at 8th and K Streets, NW. The Beaux-Arts building, designed by New York-based Ackerman & Ross, was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt and benefactor, Andrew Carnegie, on January 7, 1903.  The Carnegie Library was the first public library in Washington, DC, as well as the first desegregated public building in the Nation’s Capitol.

The Public Library, Washington, DC (also known as The Carnegie Library
(Source: Library of Congress – Usage: Public Domain)

The Public Library of Washington, DC was one of many public libraries and public buildings endowed by steel magnate,  Andrew Carnegie.  In the latter years of his life, he believed the rich had a responsibility to “improve society,” and hence, donated $350M (equal to over $5B today) to the construction of over 3,000 libraries and public spaces in his birthplace, Scotland, the United States, and around the world.

Andrew Carnegie – Photo by Theodore C. Marceau (1913)
(Source: Library of Congress Usage: Public Domain)

The “Central Public Library” was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.  In use for over 70 years as the main public library in Washington, DC, the Carnegie Library, after undergoing a $30M historic renovation, is currently the cite of the Apple Carnegie Library,  a multi-discipline learning center, which houses the DC History Center, Kiplinger Research Library,  three galleries, a museum store and an Apple products showroom. 

Lewis Radcliffe (1880-1950)

Lewis Radcliffe (Source: Binghamton Press, October 28, 1927

Lewis Radcliffe, born January 2, 1880 in Savannah, New York was an American naturalist, malacologist, and ichthyologist.  Educated at Cornell University (B.A. 1905) and George Washington University (M.S. 1915),  Radcliffe served as Deputy Commissioner of the United States Bureau of Fisheries until 1932. He was also the director of the Oyster Institute of North America until his death in 1950.