Senator Wilson was the first person to ask Andrew Carnegie, his friend, to subsidize a permanent home for a library. In December 1891 Carnegie agreed, and Wilson donated the land for the new library building. (The library had been in many different locations since its founding in 1853).
This marked the first time that Carnegie had funded a library in which he had no personal ties or investments, and led to his funding of about 2800 more libraries throughout the world (1689 in the United States).
See the story of Carnegie's gift to Fairfield, a University of Iowa project.
In 1894 there were only about 400 public libraries in the entire country, with only 46 of them west of the Mississippi River.
Read Carnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy
by Theodore Jones (available at the Fairfield Public Library).
Public libraries became the social centers, architectural landmarks, and the cornerstones of the educational system of a town. No wonder the Grand Opening celebration in Fairfield was such a spectacular event, with guests from as far away as Des Moines. View a history of the library, includes old photos.
In the 1920's the heavy Mansard roof was removed, as an underground stream was causing this heavy building to sink. The 1950's brought an extensive stabilizing project.
The front entrance was remodeled in 1966, but the "1853", the owl, and the "1892" remain - see the 1939 photo to the right or below.
The Carnegie Museum is still on the third floor, although the library moved to a new building in 1996.
Andrew Carnegie also made an unconditional gift for a library building at Parsons College (dedicated in 1907, now gone), but this was not a public library. T. D. Foster secured the gift while a fellow passenger on a ship crossing the Atlantic in 1905.
Now walk one block east on Washington Ave to B St to the Thoma-Wood House (#13b).
Click here for the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form and photos for this building, which you can download.