Residents of Riverbank celebrated a centennial of library service to the residents at what was built as the Carnegie Library, at 3237 Santa Fe Street.
When it was first constructed, there wasn’t anything else on the block, but now it sits across an alley from City Hall North and across Santa Fe Street from City Hall South.
Back in 1921, Scottish steel magnate Andrew Carnegie made a fortune selling his metal as the Industrial Age took hold, and decided to donate some of his money to cities across the country so they could build libraries.
According to information at the Museum, Carnegie offered the town $3,000 to build one here, but at first, residents didn’t seem to care. As the story goes, when they learned he was going to give the money to build one in Newman, local citizens banded together, putting together a subscription-style fundraiser.
Museum notes say the construction began on May 27, 1921, and concluded on July 22.
Among other dignitaries in attendance at the 100-year celebration, Riverbank Mayor Richard D. O’Brien presented an official proclamation recognizing the event.
He noted that the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned and maintained by the City of Riverbank, he pointed out that the Museum is now operated by the Riverbank Historical Society and staffed by volunteers.
The Society provides educational programs about local historical people and places. It stores and displays artifacts and photographs.
“We recognize the valuable contributions made by all the volunteers and acknowledge the significance of this historic building in our City,” he said.
Built in 1921, the building remained a library even after Stanislaus County took over the local libraries and centralized everything. In 1978, a new building was built further east on Santa Fe and the building was given to the city.
Several groups used it over the years, and it even became the office of the Riverbank Chamber of Commerce for a time.
In 1995, the Riverbank Historical Society was formed, undertaking a renovation of the building to establish a permanent museum. In 1996 the State Historic Resources Commission announced that the library building had been added to the National Registry of Historical Places.
The National Register is the United States’ official list of historic places worth preserving.
The museum was officially dedicated on Feb. 2, 1997, and opened as a repository dedicated to preserving Riverbank’s rich heritage and historical past.
The Estanislao Chapter 58 of E Clampus Vitus dedicated the monument in front of the building at that event.
Although many of the original society members have passed away, those now involved seek to continue the centennial celebration through the rest of the year. They hope to tie it into continued efforts to raise the money to build an annex where more of the artifacts can be displayed, as well as a storage space for the 1919 Model T fire engine that was donated to the museum by members of the original volunteer fire department here in town.
One society member wondered if it could continue into next year, 2022, which will mark the centennial of the incorporation of the City of Riverbank, 1922, and possibly join with that celebration.