Work on the Riverbank Historical Society Museum building – previously the city’s library – in the downtown area is nearing completion, with evidence clear on the exterior walls there.
As a prelude to celebrating the museum’s centennial, the city undertook to spruce up the exterior walls, while repairing the rotted spots in the walls, then painting the exterior.
The museum started out as a library, funded, in part, by money donated by Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and philanthropist who used some of his profits from the expanding steel industry in the country to build library facilities in many towns.
When initial interest in having a new library here was lacking, Carnegie reportedly offered it to the City of Newman. That sparked a positive response here, the matching money was raised, and the library was built, in 1921.
After Stanislaus County took over operation of all local libraries, it built a new, modern branch building further east on Santa Fe Street and the old building was handed off to the City of Riverbank. In the 1990s, the Historical Society formed and helped place the library/museum on the National Register of Historic Places.
Once the current work is completed, the society is planning a centennial celebration of the construction of the library, and will be able to re-open the museum to the public.
The only other Carnegie library in Stanislaus County was in Turlock, and is being used as an arts center. Unfortunately, it caught fire a few years ago. Although not completely destroyed, it was rebuilt and expanded a bit, so no longer qualifies as a historic building.
Riverbank’s Historical Museum is at 3237 Santa Fe, immediately across the alley from the back of City Hall North.