Crunden Branch Library on Cass Avenue, 1909

From the Washington University Eames and Young Architectural Photographs Collection. Several images of the then-newly opened Crunden Library of the Saint Louis Public Library at 1406 North 14th Street (or 1317 Cass Avenue). According to a variety of sources, the Crunden Branch was opened in 1909 using monies of the late Andrew Carnegie, steel magnate and proponent of the Gospel of Wealth, which suggested that the successful capitalists ought to provide for the success of the underprivileged via philanthropy. Carnegie endowed thousands of libraries, from St. Louis to small towns across the nation.

The Crunden branch was a gorgeous beaux-arts building with a reading room that uplifted patrons' minds with its chandeliers and intricate molding. Costing in excess of $51,000, the branch was the first of its kind on the north side of St. Louis. While the library was in residence at the building, the Draft Board for World War One held hearings there, and the local Red Cross had meetings. It was not simply a center for learning, not just a "third place" for north side residents, but was a valuable asset to community life.

The library moved in the early 1950s and the building was sold to the Pulaski Bank (then Pulaski Savings Assocation), which vacated in the 1990s. The ubiquitous LRA demolished the building, glorious even in its decay, in August 2005.

Mr. Carnegie's dreams denied, the north side now has neither a bank nor a library, but a vacant lot at 1317 Cass.

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