Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

217 S FARWELL ST

Architecture and History Inventory
217 S FARWELL ST | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:EAU CLAIRE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Other Name:CITY HALL
Contributing:
Reference Number:29231
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):217 S FARWELL ST
County:Eau Claire
City:Eau Claire
Township/Village:
Unincorporated Community:
Town:
Range:
Direction:
Section:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
PROPERTY FEATURES
Year Built:1903
Additions: 1978
Survey Date:1999
Historic Use:library
Architectural Style:Beaux Arts
Structural System:
Wall Material:Limestone
Architect:PATTON AND MILLER
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished?:No
Demolished Date:
DESIGNATIONS
National/State Register Listing Name: Eau Claire Public Library
National Register Listing Date:1/28/1983 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
NOTES
Additional Information:A 'site file' exists for this property. It contains additional information such as correspondence, newspaper clippings, or historical information. It is a public record and may be viewed in person at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation. Prominently situated at the crest of a small hill and joined to the city hall by a glass curtain wall, the former public library is a rectangular block constructed of buff and blue Bedford limestone. A low hip roof covered with red tiles caps the two story structure which rests on a raised rusticated stone basement. Dominating the composition is a monumental tetrastyle portico in the Corinthian order. The portico, repeated on the facade by monumental pilasters, is crowned by a pediment that features a sculptural elements consisting of a wreath encircling an open book - an appropriate symbol for a library. The pediment as well as the building's cornice is outlined with block modillions. Framed within the portico is the main entrance identified by a projecting cornice supported by scroll-shaped brackets. Large rectangular window openings flank the doorway which is approached by a broad flight of stairs. The flanking windows like the three smaller openings on the second level are simply but boldly framed. To either side of the central portico area are three compound windows that refer to Richardson's commercial architecture. Organized as a single unit, the round arched and corresponding rectangular openings are separated by simple pilasters. Similar windows are located on the north and south facades. At the rear of the main block is a single story flat-roofed addition.

In 1978-79 the library was converted for use as a city office building. At that time the area connecting the two structures, the former library and the neighboring city hall, was completed. The glassed connection, containing new council chambers and additional office space, is a recessed element and, while not totally compatible with the classical structures, does not detract from their significance.

The Eau Claire Public Library, constructed with funds provided by philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, is the city's finest example of Neo-Classical archtecture. Located adjacent to Eau Claire's city hall, an equally impressive Neo-Classical/Beaux Arts inspired structure erected in 1916, the library was designed by Chicago architects, Patton and Miller, who specialized in libraries, schools, and collegiate buildings. Within west central Wisconsin the distinguished stone structure provides an early illustration of the twentieth century style most commonly used for public buildings. It is also among the earliest Carnegie-endowed institutions in the state. The public library, which today houses city offices, was designated an Eau Claire landmark in 1976.

The Patton and Miller partnership was in existence from 1901 to 1912. Previous to that time, Normand Patton, a Hartford, Conneticut native, was a member of the firm Patton and Fisher, 1885 to 1896; and Patton, Fisher, and Miller, 1896 to 1901. In Wisconsin Patton and Miller were responsible for several structures on the Beloit College Campus, including a Carnegie library, 1903-05 (C,D).

Eau Claire's first library and reading room was established in 1875. It was located in a commercial block which also housed the city's post office. In 1894 the library moved to larger quarters in the Ingram Block (no longer extant) at the corner of E. Grand Avenue and Farwell Street. Following a $40,000 donation from Andrew Carnegie who during the years 1901 to 1915 financed sixty three libraries in Wisconsin, the Eau Claire Public Library was completed in 1903 (E,F). The early construction date places the Eau Claire structure among the first of the state's Carnegie libraries. The Kellogg Public Library (NRHP 1981) in Green Bay erected in 1901 is perhaps the earliest of the type.

Presently city offices occupy the library building. Original plans published: Wisconsin Free Library Commission, "New Types of Small Library Buildings," pp. 62-64.

2016- "Constructed with funds provided by philanthropist and steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, the Eau Claire Public Library was designed by Chicago architects Patton and Miller, who specialized in libraries, schools and collegiate buildings. Illustrating the style most commonly used for public buildings in the early twentieth century, this structure is among the earliest of 63 Carnegie-endowed libraries in Wisconsin. Patton and Miller designed more than 100 such libraries around the United States, including the Mead Public Library (1904) in Sheboygan.

The building is constructed of buff and blue Bedford limestone. Above the portico is a sculptural element consisting of a wreath encircling an open book, an appropriate symbol for a library. In 1978-79, the library was attached to the City Hall and converted for use as a city office building."
-"Eau Claire Landmarks: Designated Historic Properties in Eau Claire, Wisconsin", Eau Claire Landmarks Commission, P.O. Box 5148, 2016.
Bibliographic References:(A) Building inscriptions. (B) Eau Claire Weekly Telegram, April 2, 1903, p. 3. (C) Withey, H.F. and E.R. 1970. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects Deceased, p. 460. (D) Beloit, Wisconsin Multiple Resource Nomination. (E) History of Eau Claire County, 1914, p. 443. (F) MacLeod, D. 1968. Carnegie Libraries in Wisconsin. (G) EAU CLAIRE LEADER-TELEGRAM 9/18/1994. Take a Walk on Main Street: Historic Walking Tours in Wisconsin's Main Street Communities, Wisconsin Main Street Program, 1998. Eau Claire Landmarks booklet published by the Eau Claire Landmarks Commission in 2002.
RECORD LOCATION
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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