Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record

111 MAIN AVE (ST)

Architecture and History Inventory
111 MAIN AVE (ST) | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
NAMES
Historic Name:Free Public Library of Kaukauna
Other Name:Kaukauna Public Library
Contributing:
Reference Number:56897
PROPERTY LOCATION
Location (Address):111 MAIN AVE (ST)
County:Outagamie
City:Kaukauna
Township/Village:
Unincorporated Community:
Town:
Range:
Direction:
Section:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
PROPERTY FEATURES
Year Built:1905
Additions: 1976 1933
Survey Date:1999
Historic Use:library
Architectural Style:Prairie School
Structural System:
Wall Material:Brick
Architect:Claude and Starck
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished?:No
Demolished Date:
DESIGNATIONS
National/State Register Listing Name: Free Public Library of Kaukauna
National Register Listing Date:3/29/1984 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:Multiple Resources of Kaukauna
NOTES
Additional Information:A 'site file' (Kaukauna Island #4 Historic District) 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-Public History.

The small rectangular Kaukauna Public Library is characterized by its symmetrical composition with central portico, gable roof, and raised foundation. Built in 1905 by the Madison firm, Claude and Starck, the library reflects the Prairie School influences of the turn of the century with its wide overhanging eaves, decorative half-timbering on stucco and casement windows grouped into horizontal bands. String courses are located beneath the casement windows. Its human-like scale and decorative features such as its curvilnear bargeboards on the central portico pediment, scroll brackets beneath the eaves and bay windows also hark back to Gustav Stickney's "Craftsman" movement which encouraged the return of the skilled craftsman as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution.

Alterations made to teh central portico including the removal of the original door and decorative half-timbering, as well as the large west side addition (6,300 feet) constructed in November of 1976, contribute to disqualify the Kaukauna Public Library for a nomination to the National Register as an architectural landmark. However, the building does retain enough integrity to convey its historical associations.

The Kaukauna Public LIbrary built in 1905 and located centrally on the largest island between north and south Kaukauna, signalled the cultual coming of age of Kaukauna as a community and set a pattern for centralizing municipal facilities which was continued with the municipal building (1921-22), the high school (1923), and the poast office (1935).

Concerned citizens donated books for a public reading room in 1899, but as the local Women's group pointed out, the available municipal space above the jail on the grounds of the present high school was not conducive to quiet reading with local drunkards noisily sobering up in the cells below. They found a sympathetic ear in the nationally known philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and a former Kaukauna Mayor, Dr. Herbert Tanner, who became the first president of the Kaukauna Library Board. Tanner successfully negotiated an arrangement with Carnegoe, whereby the latter would donate $1,000 for every $100 raised by the city. The library building cost $7,164. The Kaukauna Library Board began with very influential people in the community as members, including two former Mayors besides Dr. Tanner: Peter Reuter and J.H. Mulholland; and Kaukauna industrial giants Oscar Thilmany and Norman Brokaw.

As part of the arrangement with Carnegie, the City was to furnish a site for the library. The local newspaper, The Kaukauna Times, chronicled the development of library site selection and management as follows:

May 15, 1903--Mrs. Harriet Meades proposal to donate a site on the north riverbank facing Wisconsin Avenue was considered with some consternation by the special committee to select a library site. The committee had been favoring a site on the south side. No decision.

June 12, 1903--When the City Council accepted the offer of Mrs. Meade of a north side site, Mayor Mulholland returned the council minutes without approval saying that he thought their decision was made too quickly and that the public should have a chance to express their feelings.

June 19, 1903--After considerable discussion, the Library Board was given authority to make the decisions that dealt with the library. The City Council was taken out of the matter.

October 28, 1904--Dr. H.B. Tanner, president of the Library Board, announced that Andrew Carnegie had accepted a central island location for the library which was offerred by the Green Bay & Mississippi Canal Company. Mr. Carnegie would present up to $10,000 in installments of $2,000 and $3,000 as work progressed.

The Kaukauna Free Public LIbrary has continued to be a focus for community pride and enthusiasm. As other Carnegie libraries around the country are destroyed, Kaukauna has updated its library building with a 1976 addition of 6,300 square feet. The addition has almost doubled the side of the original facility, but was designed to save the Carnegie facade while modernizing the library. The look and location of the library continue to bring satisfaction to Kaukauna residents, for "the library is now much more than just a book check-out facility, but instead a place to spend a leisurely afternoon in quiet peaceful surroundings."
Bibliographic References:(A) Kaukauna Times, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1976. (B) Lion of the Fox Valley, 1891, p. 223. (C) Cornerstone.
RECORD LOCATION
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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