Enterprise Carnegie Library
An American Renaissance in Enterprise, Oregon
At the close of the 19th century, the citizens of Enterprise shared in the national sense of renewed confidence and a feeling that the United States was the natural heir to Greek democracy, Roman law, and Renaissance humanism.
This sense of confidence is illustrated by the group of public spirited residents who formed a library in 1899. At the start, it was a private library and charged a subscription fee. Dues were only $0.50 a year, but anyone unable to pay could donate a used book instead.
The first library committee consisted of Mrs. E.W. Steel, Miss Ida Funk, Mr. D.W. Sheahan, Mr. C.H. Zurcher and Mr. John S. Hodgin. "The library" Mr. Hodgin said, "exerted an appreciable influence on the habits of members, which I think has contributed in no small way toward giving Enterprise a reputation for culture not possessed by some small towns."
This committee hosted an ice cream social to raise money for books and shelves. The library was originally located in Forsythe's drug store (The Bowlby Building) and started with about 100 volumes and added 50 volumes a year for the first six years. Due to its popularity, the library had to move several times to accommodate the increase in books and members. Berland's Grocery (Lear's Pub and Grill) and the third floor of the County Courthouse all were utilized in the search for larger accommodations.
In 1910, spurred by the continuous growth of the library, Dr. C. T. Hockett, physician and member of the Enterprise City Council, spearheaded the successful effort to have the library taken over by the city. A board of directors, led by Dr. Hockett, formed, drafted by-laws, ordered magazines and set the regulations regarding hours of operation, fines and other matters.
The city hired Bertha Millard as librarian in 1911 and she served until 1959. She still holds the record for the longest serving librarian for the City of Enterprise.
In March, 1913, the Library Board asked the City to consider a generous proposal from the Carnegie Corporation. Mr. Carnegie would contribute $5,000 for a new library building if the city pledged $500. The City Council agreed and Dr. C.T. Hockett was asked to choose and purchase a building site.
In July, 1913 the lot on the corner of NE 1st and Main Streets was purchased from G.I. Ratcliff for $1,500. Enterprise's Carnegie Library plans were prepared by architects Milton Block and C.W. Bunting, of La Grande, who also designed the La Grande Carnegie Library. In August of that year, John Oberg, a Swedish emigrant to Wallowa County, was awarded the contract to build the new library.
Completed in 1914, the Enterprise Carnegie Public Library is an excellent example of the American Renaissance style of Architecture. Decorative brick corners and contrasting stonework around the door of the cross shaped building are characteristic of this style. The library was designed with two large bright reading rooms, one for adults and one for children, and the librarian's desk was in the middle directly in front of the entrance. There were also two public reading rooms downstairs. Today's users of the library will recognize that this historic treasure is largely the same as it was in 1914.
Carnegie funded 31 libraries in Oregon and there are still five, including Enterprise, which are substantially unchanged and are still public libraries.
Librarian, Denine Rautenstrauch, has been raising funds and developing plans for several years to renovate the library to include better access. Completed renovations include new stairs and a new roof with restored wooden eaves and cornices.
The Enterprise City Librarian, Denine Rautenstrauch provided much of the material for this article.