1906: Seattle Central Library. Demolished in 1957.

Seattle Central Library
On the night of January 1, 1901, the Yesler Mansion burned taking most of the old library collection with it. The library records were salvaged, along with the 2,000 volumes of the children's collection. Other than those, though, practically the only books salvaged were the 5,000 that were out of circulation at the time. The library operated for a time out of Yesler's barn, which had survived, then moved to a building that had been left behind when the University of Washington had moved from downtown to its present campus.
  • By January 6, Andrew Carnegie had promised $200,000 to build a new Seattle library; he later added another $20,000 when this budget proved inadequate.
  • The new Carnegie library was to be built not far from the former university campus, occupying the entire block between 4th and 5th Avenues and between Madison and Spring Streets. The land was purchased for $100,000.
  • In August 1903, the city selected a design submitted by P. J. Weber of Chicago for a building to be constructed largely of sandstone.
  • Ground was broken in spring 1905 and the library was dedicated December 19, 1906.
  • The building was demolished in 1957.
  • Seattle Public Library
  • Central Library, 1906-1957
  • Seattle’s first Central Library, built in 1906, was magnificent
  • Photographs
The Architect
Peter Joseph Weber was born Cologne, Germany in 1863. He was educated at the Technische Hochschule in Charlottenburg. In 1891 he arrived in Chicago and secured a position as assistant to Charles Atwood at the World's Columbian Exposition. He was subsequently hired by D.H. Burnham & Company... bla-bla-bla ...Peter Weber died in Evanston, Illinois, on August 21, 1923.

Peter Joseph Weber

1863 - 1923
The Building


Number of ground level windows on the above image does not match the below photographs. Is it a photograph or a drawing?



c. 1910






Unknown Year


Unknown Year

It looks like on the above image we have the front stairs removed. Other photographs do not have those three doors either.

The Carnegie Library was demolished in 1957 and replaced by a newer building. This replacement was itself torn down in 2001.



KD: Good luck finding a single construction photograph. Could you please scroll up, and compare photographs dated with 1907 and 1914.
  • What do you think happened there?
  • Did they simply remove the dirt and did some legit updates to the structure, or excavated the surrounding areas to uncover the concrete surroundings?
  • Additional photographs
If there is anything else (pertaining to this building) you would like to share, please do.

Oh, and by the way, here's what they replaced the above building with. It existed until 2001.


And the building below is our current Seattle Central Library.

Excellent. From there I found these.

A zoomable version Source

And two others. Both zoomable at the links.

All show construction not renovation and crucially for me bring it into focus the scale of the building.. Very imposing for sure but not as massive as the wide view photographs make it appear. Evidenced by the humans in these photographs. The earlier construction photo back up the thread with scaffold around the complete facade and side is I would suggest the scaffold used to install the windows and glass and complete the final decoration.
As for the dates they are all over the place. Even given the new look at the scale of the building after looking through some winter photographs of the Seattle area and the rainfall for the area it would mean a short building season of some six to eight months hardly long enough to get the walls up and the roof on to make the interior a workable space. An earlier start date of 1904 and the completion in 1906 does seem much more doable. I say 1905 simply because ion that map we all missed things on the ground where it will be built has not been broken.

Edit to fix typo!
Last edited:
Lol, you always post stuff when I’m limited to my phone.

That thing spans from Spring to Madison street. That’s like 200 feet with some change. If you ask me, that’s pretty big.

Additionally, for any building to exist, it had to be built. At the same time, we would have never had websites like this one, if it was not for certain things not adding up.

@jd755, methinks that sometimes, in addition to things we see, we also have to consider things that we don’t see.
  • Some visible cranes appear to be the same tech level cranes used in 1865 to upgrade the capitol building in DC. That’s like 50 year difference.
  • Based on what we’ve seen up to this point, and if this was indeed 1905, they had to have all sorts of equipment. That includes steam, gas, compressed air and electricity powered gadgets. For whatever reason, those rarely make it onto photographs. Horses have no issues like that.
  • Any construction site of today features all sorts of supporting infrastructure. Even taking into account that it was some 115 years ago, they still needed certain transportation, and other types of support.
    • Limestone weighs approximately 150 pounds per cubic foot, so your 8 cubic foot block will weigh about 1200 pounds.
    • In Imperial or US customary measurement system, the density of sandstone is equal to 145.0202 pound per cubic foot.
  • This brings us to these Carnegie libraries. Are we witnessing some prefab kit houses getting delivered and installed, or those were made per the narrative? Meaning that in this particular case we are supposed to have an individual architect Weber, who developed his individual design. From what I see, it appears that these guys are playing legos.
    • Where was all the stone cutting done at?
    • Could we be seeing some sandstone based artificial composite?
That’s just off the top of my head. I will search the linked archive when have access to my computer. Would love to see a wider view to account for those trees hugging the building on the photograph featuring the scaffolding.
I've been screen grabbing and enlarging those three images.
The cranes are steam powered.
The cranes in use today are exactly the same as those in use when I was a nipper. Those of today are able to lift more weight but be they crawlers which use pulleys and electric motors or mobiles which use hydraulics they are essentially the same tech. That's fifty year span in front of my eyes and going back another twenty years in photographs reveal them to be the same but smaller in their capacity.

Outside the scope of this thread but fwiw I feel cranes are overwhelming evidence for our history being nowhere near as long as what we are told it is.

There is something very wrong with the dating applied to this building both in its stated built time and the years the start and end began, Thing is tech that just plain works endures for a long time because it works. It is of course improved as time goes by and materials get replaced but it stays the same. All cranes are based on leverage which in turn comes from watching how the body works. Arms and legs specifically.
In short could the machinery and infrastructure be used to build that library building, yes of course.
The stone is in block sizes that the cranes can handle. It is brought to site as rough stones and worked onsite to provide facings and shapes and then lifted into place by crane and lewis before being manhandled into final position and set on a slip mortar cement. All the tools and infrastructure are there to do just that.

Most of the building is not of built of sandstone at all. Its built of brick as these photographs are evidence of. There is also evidence that concrete was being poured at least at basement/ground level. The stones are made as slightly as possible whilst maintaining structural integrity as you can see frogs and back cuts in many blocks designed to keep their weight down. All of he facade seems to have been backed by brick in the internal side if the photographs evidence is any guide. A lot of the stones also reveal an unworked face which will be backed up by the brickwork so invisible once the full depth of wall was in place.

The stone masons tools would not be required if the stone was artificial and it would make no sense whatsoever to make the artificial stone 'off site' and risk damaging it by carriage to the site. What would make sense were it artificial would be to cast it on site the same as they cast concrete on site ergo in place where the finished stone would be required. Once the moulds are removed there would be minimal finishing work required.

There is evidence of the use of machines to face the stone in around the windows. Regular tool marks obviously made by machines in the stone masons workshop sadly we cannot see inside the shop but it is beyond belief to think these men were doing everything by hand even on the easy to work sandstone.

Anyway enough of all that here's the grabs in no particular order.

A surveyor checking levels
2021-03-10 12.52.16 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org f79e2c8cbb47.jpg

A stonemasons 'hammer
2021-03-10 12.47.13 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org 5d9e841fccdb.jpg

A wooden 'persuader' used to move stones into place without damaging them

2021-03-10 12.44.32 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org 20064e0d46a7.jpg

A brick arch lintel over a door opening in the basement

2021-03-10 12.42.15 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org a779f2d49f6d.jpg

A lewis suspended from a crane
2021-03-10 12.41.18 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org 8b055d154862.jpg

Concrete with new shuttering on top for the next pour

2021-03-10 12.38.18 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org a408905d3d43.jpg

Shuttering installed ready for the pour.
2021-03-10 12.37.13 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org 71d3bf243bee.jpg

EDIT to add these
As enhanced as I can get it view inside the stone workshop

2021-03-10 16.49.42 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org 1111125cf20b.jpg

A neat solution the lift off roof!

2021-03-10 16.50.23 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org a3c404177072.jpg

The massive counterbalance for the crane supports.

2021-03-10 16.48.47 cdm16118.contentdm.oclc.org 7221ab0a1eaa.jpg
Last edited:
I will have to wait until can use a bigger screen.

Can we see what they are using to cut the sandstone?

With our rainy climate, building a brick based basement is somewhat weird, unless they used something to keep the moisture away.

How big of a cavity did they excavate for the foundation? May be their basement was not that low.
No sadly I cannot make anything out. I would hazard a guess that the lack of dust cloud around the man at the back suggests no machine tool is in use or has been stopped as it would clarity for the lewis to be fitted to the block in the front and for the lift itself. There is a name of the builders/masons under the photos so will see what I can find out about them. May just date the build a little better and see what if any other libraries they worked on.

The rainfall is not the issue its the height of the water table that matters. I don't think they dug a cavity at all least there is no evidence for it in those photographs. They likely dug back into the hill aways at the 'non photogenic' rear of the building but coming forwards out of the hill so too speak only the footing would need to be excavated thus the stone side of the basement would be mainly above ground and the rear in ground if you get my meaning. The brick lintel could be a fireplace as the fireplace five feet away from me has just such a lintel in it to fold up the massive weight of the brick chimney and on second glance the surrounding brickwork could be a chimney under construction.
Are these really stone blocks or are they concrete??
This stuff is confusing, isn't it? To me, based on its appearance, it looks like concrete. This here could be either a factory produced formwork or signs of some power tools being used.
  • If using a phone, you need to really zoom in. This is for the below image only.


I do not see these blocks as being made of any natural stone. At first thought this could be some quick stone splitting chiseling, but the above image suggests otherwise. They look like a formwork fill. Could these be some sort of a sandstone composite? I think they could.

stone - 1.jpg

stone - 2.jpg


These parts of the foundation appear to have been made of concrete.

I'm not sure what the purpose of the brick opening was.



To me, these blocks look weathered. May be they were either stored somewhere for a long time, or used to belong to some other building that ended up getting disassembled. Recycling?

- Clickable -



Are them dudes simply "whitewashing" pre-existing blocks?



If this opening below the stairs was supposed to lead to some sort of a basement, then we have not seen any obvious dirt excavating activities.



Beats me why these Christians had to install this clearly pagan head on their library.



KD: Once this Covid stuff goes away (if ever), I'll try to visit these guys to see if they have anything else to offer.

A part of my issue with the entire story is the lack of proper instruments we know they had. At the same time, time and time again, photographs do not reflect the tools they were supposed to have.

When we are shown stuff like this, there will always be plenty of reasons for doubts.


Meanwhile, we should be able to see something like this on just about any construction "in progress" photograph. We know when the photography came about. What stone working equipment did they not have in 1840s but did have in 1900?


Below is Hoadley Quarries in Indiana in 1912. Pertaining to the image below, what exactly did they have in 1912 that they did not in, lets say 1830?
  • As far as the image below goes, I do not really know what a freshly cut sand or lime stone looks like. Surfaces below appear weathered to me.

We can be shown images like the below 1900 one all day long, but... did they use chisels or 2-man crosscut saws? Where is the real equipment?


Above images were sourced via the link below. There are tons of older stone working photographs there. Some of the photographs could have been staged. At the same time, I doubt there is any break through tech in there.
Our library was allegedly built with this Tenino Sandstone. Here is an ok description of the 1908 equipment they used.

Just like I said before, it's an issue when until about 1910-15 they give us only these.



When in reality we should be seeing equipment similar to the below highway locomotives starting with about 1830s.
  • What did they need horses for?
A lot going on here. The 1905 shot has different landscaping close in than 1907 and the plants seem wild (found?).

1907, the land is lower and the dirt is clean/undisturbed; no growth (further digging?)

1914 and on, the street is 20' lower? I thought seattle was lifted up.

Finally, all of his designs are similar. I could see that happening in architecture; the person with the best style wins and then sells his style. OR, all similar designs that were found got attributed to him.
The detail in the first photo you post as possible evidence of moulding casting is in reality marks made by a machine. Were it cast and moulded there would be no need for the grooves as the mould is made smooth just as they did for the mould they made for the columns at one of the expos we investigated on sh v.1.
Were scalloping chiselled by hand there would be no marks.

Machinery was used to shape that sandstone which I too have been investigating as discovering the name of the building firm is beyond me and its thrown up some interesting stuff. That steam powered machine in the second quarry photo being part of it.
It is also interesting to me to realise that the agent whose company name is under the photographs is promoting the quarries products not the library construction.

With quarrying once you have the method to cut out stone in the sizes and quality the customer requires there is only the improvement of the tech used in the method. Even today the 'old tech' is still used in many instances where top quality stone is required. Anyway more on the stone quarry discoveries later.

There is no way that machine could get up the road those oxen are taking without destroying or badly damaging the dirt road. To heavy to hard to manoeuvre. That they had road going steam traction at the time the library was built does not seem to be an issue. It's reliability suitability and cost does. I would venture to suggest that the underlying soils in Seattle couldn't cope with the concentrated weight of the things.
If anything I would expect to see some sort of mechanical donkey in use powered by a petrol engine if only for the cranes but obviously steam could do things even then that petrol engines could not hence its endurance.

Incidentally that gantry crane in the background in the image of the man grinding the stone is straight out of the mid 1800's and yet there it is in use in the 1940's. Question is in regards to the machines in use on the library stone work does the building date tie in with the development of rubber hosepipes. Without the hosepipe there is no compressed air.
In one photo a man is washing something with water from a tap so will have to have a look see if its attached to a malleable iron or steel pipe or a hose is in use.

Concrete is used in the buildings construction to provide pads and more than likely to provide a level foundation within the foundation trench off of which the walls can be built be they of brick or stone. The amount of fill removed from foundation trenches is small compared to the amount required to excavate a basement plus foundation trenches so it makes perfect sense to me we would not see any piles of soil/subsoil stood around with the foundations complete and the walls being laid in. It would have all been carted off or levelled across the site. The only place it might be visible is at the non photogenic rear of the building where it is cut into the hillside.

Those chaps are not whitewashing anything. They are working on the finished surface of the sandstone.
When casting concrete the form ensures all sides bar the fill side is smooth as it can be. Go along to any formwork having its mould removed and it is easy to see. The top would be floated off smooth by hand not left rough.
The roughness on the worked stones some see as evidenc of casting is in reality evidence of stone being worked. In stone work the finished surface is the one presented to the eye in the finished structure. As stone work is close bonded with a thin yet strong mortar provided the edges facing the finished surface are parallel to the next block then as long as the rest of the surface is slightly below this worked edge its finishing is not required and neither does the rear of the stone which seems universally in this building to have been backed by brickwork. It's like painting behind a radiator there is no point to it!

The vegetation in the finished building with the scaffold is regrowth weeds that spring up whenever soil is disturbed. Nature, whatever it is, abhors bare soil so weeds that cover and weeds that bind loose soil germinate and cover the soil very quickly.

The need for all the subsequent steps and fancy stonework is said to be because the city engineer could not decide on the final grade for the street in front of the library.

There is a lot about the dating of this building and its back story which have a whiff of make believe about them but there is also a lot about it which fits in squarely with other buildings of similar design and build and the Beau Arts movement.
And no I discovered there were no less than 7 Carnegie libraries in Seattle alone, why god alone knows, ad they all differ and Mr Weber had no hand in them but I have also discovered the method by which the Carnegie outfit operated in relation to these libraries so will add that in later. For now still going through stuff related to the Pioneer building and its surrounds.
There is no way that machine could get up the road those oxen are taking without destroying or badly damaging the dirt road. To heavy to hard to manoeuvre. That they had road going steam traction at the time the library was built does not seem to be an issue. It's reliability suitability and cost does. I would venture to suggest that the underlying soils in Seattle couldn't cope with the concentrated weight of the things.
I don’t know why we keep on bringing this stuff up. Not sure what exactly they could damage there, or fail to negotiate.




This here is directly from Wikipedia:
  • Steam carriages were much less likely to overturn, and did not "run away with" the customer as horses sometimes did.
  • They travelled faster than horse-drawn carriages (24 mph over four miles and an average of 12 mph over longer distances).
  • They could run at a half to a third of the cost of horse-drawn carriages.
  • Their brakes did not lock and drag like horse-drawn transport (a phenomenon that increased damage to roads).
  • According to engineers, steam carriages caused one-third the damage to the road surface as that caused by the action of horses' feet.
    • Indeed, the wide tires of the steam carriages (designed for better traction) caused virtually no damage to the streets, whereas the narrow wheels of the horse drawn carriages (designed to reduce the effort required of horses) tended to cause rutting.
Obviously, having low RPM, these could climb pretty steep hills.

Had plenty of power without producing any visible surface damage, even on a surface as soft as this.

A phenomenon of us not seeing steam traction engines being used, goes well beyond Seattle only. Just about every single older construction site features horses only.

As far as formwork molds go, I did mention power tools as a more likely possibility, but I still don’t want to discount molds. We have plenty of historical examples with one being the mat molds used to shape some of the blocks for them pyramids in Egypt.



There are plenty of rather interesting concrete molds today, I don’t know how we can know for sure they did not have something like this back then.

D446914A-5F84-4237-A20F-D1BC3362BCD8.jpeg 4DD8E92F-7B1B-4699-B1E4-812166C71CE7.jpeg

And if we wanna talk about this particular block, those lines are way to consistent and evenly spaced to have been produced by a hand power tool. It was either a factory size machine, or a mold, imho.


As far as what these guys in the shack are doing. There is no way to distinguish whether they are producing new blocks or grinding off mildew of the old ones.


They are clearly working next to a huge amount of what could be older and already pre-shaped blocks covered in mildew due to being in the elements for a while.


Are these really stone blocks or are they concrete??

I guess what I am trying to say with this is that i thought sandstone is a uniform stone but this one looks like it is a conglomerate due to the rocks of differing colour which looks like the aggregate needed for concrete. I am no stone expert so I am willing to be corrected!
Oh, and as far as pressure hoses go. They had those in 1860s, at least.

They also had cinder blocks since at least 1860’s.

I just find it ironic, that we are being shown early 1900s technology, and it’s inferior to what they had 50 years prior.
I guess what I am trying to say with this is that i thought sandstone is a uniform stone but this one looks like it is a conglomerate due to the rocks of differing colour which looks like the aggregate needed for concrete. I am no stone expert so I am willing to be corrected!
Personally, I think you are correct in your observations, those do look like the result of a half fast molding job. Ain’t no way a stone of this composition could result in such perfect outer edges.
We come back to steam traction engines simply because I have first hand experience of what they can and cannot do and the aftermath of their passing. They concentrate weight onto their contact points with the road. Unlike say a tank or excavator which distributes it across a wide track thus lowering the pounds per square inch pressure on the ground.
Imagine your foot being stood on by a lady wearing stilettos and then one wearing sneakers. The former will hurt like hell because the psi is much greater assuming it is the same lady in each pair of shoes.

You seem to have great difficulty in accepting concurrent technologies working alongside each other whereas I have practical experience of them co-existing. As long as we are in Seattle in the early 1900's its worth pointing out that sailing ships, which were being made obsolete by steam power were still hauling lumber from Seatlles sawmills all over the world presumably because they were cheaper to operate than the steam ships. Iron hulled they may have been and no longer wood but sail was their motive power when linear evolution suggests that steam replaced sail.
For my part I will no longer comment on this as it detracts as it has done here from the examination of what was likely to have been going on. I see no way of establishing the timeframe of anything with any degree of certainty.

The scalloped edge is a machine made edge. Yes of course it could be this or that and have highlighted more than once the use of artificial stone in the 1800's Pelamite to create grottos and rockeries over here for example and a more modern usage in restoration works. Sadly these posts and images were on the sh v.1 so are now lost but crucially for me these uses are not load bearing uses. I have never come across any use of a artificial stone for load bearing. The nearest it gets is concrete and pre-stressed concrete. I have seen stone being worked by machines, powered by electric motors and they leave behind regular cut marks. It is the nature of the machine to leave these marks, As I said were it moulded there would be no need for them to be there. Rough stone degrades faster than smooth faced stone as crap and dirt has many more places to collect swiftly followed by bird shit, moss and seeds and subsequently plants and shrubs, buddleia being the one over here work with fungus and moulds to break the stone down and allow water to ingress and exacerbate the decay. Water in a crack in stone in Seattle will freeze and expand and blow the surface of the stone in one winter and I find it inconceivable that the builders and hopefully the architect was aware of this which is why the building is all but devoid of intricate ornamentation.

We can all of course invent all manner of things for what we are seeing in grainy blurry photographs but for myself I go from processes and machines. tools, methods I have experience of or have observed being carried out in the flesh.

So if it is of any interest here are my findings from the ratch around in the stone and Carnegie attachments to this story them I'm done.

First Carnegie in regards to the Seattle Public Library.
Seattle, even luckier than most American cities of comparable size, ended up with eight of these libraries. All but one of Seattle’s Carnegie Libraries still stand today
Of those seven remaining Carnegie libraries, only one of them isn’t a library any longer: the little brick Ballard Carnegie Library.
Carnegie Free Public Library, as it was initially named, per the raised letters on the main façade, is located on Market Street between 20th and 22nd. This Neoclassical gem was designed not by W. Marbury Somervell, the usual architect of Seattle’s Carnegie libraries, but by Henderson Ryan, who also designed the University District’s opulent Neptune Theater, and erected on a budget of $15,000.
So it would seem that the Seattle Public Library and this Carnegie Free Public Library were farmed out to other architects as the article implies the other five Carnegie libraries in Seattle were designed by W. Marbury Somerwell who must have gotten the contract for them as indeed this quote purports.
Five of Seattle’s Carnegie libraries, unlike the Ballard library, were designed by architect W. Marbury Somervell. Usually he was in cahoots with partner Joseph S. Coté, but for the Queen Anne Branch, he worked with Harlan Thomas, best-known for designing the Sorrento Hotel.
As a slight aside I discovered the town of Ballard was annexed by the city of Seattle and would be obliged if the American contingent on this forum could explain to me what this means.
In 1907, Ballard was annexed to the city of Seattle, and the Ballard Library became the first major branch of the Seattle Public Library System.
Historic Site Context-City of Ballard and NW Market Street Before it was annexed to the City of Seattle in 1907, Ballard was a well-developed suburban community with a prominent Scandinavian population. Its major industries included fishing, fish canneries, sawmills, and boat building. Ira Wilcox filed the first homestead claim in the area in 1852. Judge Thomas Burke and Daniel H. Gilman bought land in 1880, in anticipation of the construction of the Great Northern Railway. Along with John Leary and
the West Coast Improvement Company, Burke and Gilman built the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad in the district of Gilman Park. William Ballard bought a sawmill with Charles Stimson on Salmon Bay. Ballard also managed Gilman Park, and lent his name to
the town of Ballard when it incorporated in 1890. Ballard City Hall was built in 1899. The timber mill produced enough wooden shingles for Ballard to proclaim itself the “Shingle Capitol of the World.” Scandinavian immigrants constituted about one third of Ballard’s population, and had a major cultural influence on Ballard, which earned the nickname “Snoose Junction” after the their preference for snuff and chewing tobacco.1 Ballard residents approved annexation to the City of Seattle in 1906 to keep up with growing demand for infrastructure, and because of a polluted water supply.
The City of Ballard ceased to exist on May 29, 1907. On that day Ballard City Hall was draped in black crepe, and the flag on the city flagpole hung at half-mast.
Mr. Weber it seems only designed one Carnegie Library or library of any description, the one built in Seattle.
This description of the library at Ballard reveals a fact that I feel applies equally to the Seattle Public Library.
The interior, finished in stained fir and weathered oak, featured radiating stacks, a men’s smoking room (later converted to a reading room), and a ladies’ “conversation room,” along with a 500-seat auditorium on the second floor.
Radiating stacks suggest there were chimneys acting as radiant heaters or possibly as the Russian style of mass heating appliances transferring the heat of the fire into the brickwork which then radiates it out over time to keep the books dry. Given the rainfall in Seattle it would make a lot of sense to go to this sort of length and the brick arched opening in the photograph when combined with the dimensions and shape of the surrounding brickwork points to a fireplace not a door was as I had originally postulated.
Warmed walls act as radiators and they radiate heat to the books and the shelving and also the people.
Obtaining a Carnegie Library
Andrew Carnegie began his philanthropy to public libraries at a time when they desperately needed help. Even with tax levies, many communities could not afford to build their own library. Most libraries were collections of books located in highly unusual places: wooden shacks, millinery shops, offices, stables, and churches. One town even had their "library" in a rest room, where the matron doubled as a librarian. It was during his "wholesale" period of giving that Carnegie helped communities like these obtain libraries. A town in any English-speaking nation desiring a grant began by writing a letter of request to Carnegie’s secretary, James Bertram. Carnegie and Bertram were willing to consider any completed application.
The designs towns wanted for their libraries also caused problems. Until 1908, communities that satisfied the site and maintenance pledges were free to build whatever they saw fit. However, Carnegie and Bertram thought that many of the plans were not practical, because they had expensive exteriors and inefficient interiors. For instance, Bertram discouraged fireplaces, believing that they wasted space and benefited only those closest to the heat.
In 1908 Bertram began exerting more control over designs. For three years he required grant recipients to submit plans before building began, and then he wrote a book entitled Notes on Library Buildings
So it seems the Seattle Public Library donation was approved before Bertram took more control over the design process which of course limited the architects in what they could and couldn't do in regards the building.
One matter of design, however, may be indirectly related to Carnegie’s involvement. Although some big-city libraries made extensive use of sandstone, a large majority of the existing Carnegie libraries are brick. This may be explained by the fact that they were intended to be permanent public buildings. However, it may not have escaped the notice of city officials that brick, while more expensive in terms of construction costs, is less expensive than other materials to maintain. The city only had to take care of the building, while Carnegie agreed to pay for materials. None of the libraries are wood, even in communities where the lumber industry was the mainstay of the economy
I'd lay odds at least some of the people on the Seattle Library Board and the Seattle City Council were on the side of knowing considering how much brickwork went into the building which enabled them to offer such a large maintenance budget of $50,000 knowing full well that the actual maintenance of a substantially brick built building would be less than that. A route to backhanders if ever there was one.
Speculation on my part but I have yet to see any council anywhere not seek to make personal gains from 'public projects'.
Seattle first received funds in 1901, when the library, housed in the residence of Henry Yesler, was destroyed by fire which devastated the estate. The Library Board appealed to Mr. Carnegie, and although considerations of such requests often took as long as four years, Carnegie promised funds in the sum of $200,000 after only one week. Later, he added another $20,000 to spend on furnishings.
The massive stone structure with marble interior, designed by P.J. Weber of Chicago, was dedicated on December 19, 1906.
The same Seattle Library Board whose Librarian was implicated in the destruction of the Yesler mansion (See further down the article)
So the Library Board and the City Council got the cash in 1901. Did the Library Board then bring in the competition to design the thing?

Peter J Weber
The new Carnegie-funded Central Library was designed by Peter J. Weber of Chicago. Weber beat out 30 other firms for the honor.
30 other firms!
How often do these competitions get run and the winner is someone or some company which has no history of designing the building type in question, only all the bloody time. And where are the drawings of the other 30 entries?
Could be within the Carnegie papers I suppose but I for one cannot find a single one 'out on the web.

The Seattle Post Influencer
Was the newspaper that broke the story of Carnegie's donation just four days after the Yesler Mansion containing the Seattle Public Library was destroyed by fire?
Fire indeed seems to be a near ubiquitous method of bringing about infrastructure change within the United States. It is used far more than it is over here.
The wooden Yesler Mansion was consumed by fire in the early morning hours of Jan. 2, 1901, a New Year's horror that destroyed most of the Library's collection and sent shockwaves through the city.

Four days later came another shock. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer trumpeted its great scoop: Andrew Carnegie had agreed to donate $200,000 to build a new "fireproof" library in Seattle after city officials promised to buy a new library site and guaranteed an annual maintenance amount of $50,000 - such a lofty figure that the nation's pre-eminent library philanthropist thought it was a mistake in the secret telegram from the distant Northwest. He was assured that $50,000 was "none too large" for Seattle's needs. Carnegie responded with one of his largest library donations and his notation, "I like your pluck.
As a sidenote it seems the Library Board through its librarian seems to have some hand in the fire setting at the Yesler Mansion.
The oddly convenient timing of the fire cast suspicion on city librarian, Charles Wesley Smith, who had been “complaining about his narrow quarters for a year,” and was spotted near the library, minutes after it went up in flames.
A very convenient fire if nothing else and the speed with which the Influencer and Carnegie responded suggests, nothing more, suggest prior knowledge and orchestrated efforts to bring the new library building into being.

Seems they got the cash or at least the promise of it and then doing what bureaucrats do best they argued amongst themselves for two years as to where to build the thing.
Choosing a site for the new library produced two years of debate and rancor between the City Council and the Library Board. Newly expanded from five to seven members by city charter and newly empowered by a state Supreme Court ruling that firmly established its governance of library affairs, the board finally decided to act alone. The city spent $100,000 in 1902 to buy the city block bounded by Fourth and Fifth avenues and Madison and Spring streets.
Question is what owned the land? My guess would be the University Board but don't know. If it were actually a businessman or a city councillor who owned the land and benefited financially from its sale I would not be in the least surprised. Of course getting into these presumably public records is verboten during the COCO crisis but perhaps in the near future.

Then there is this rather vague statement of the time taken to build the thing.
Construction of the new library consumed more than two tantalizing years before it was formally dedicated on Dec. 19, 1906, during a gala evening that drew an excited throng of 1,000 people.
More than two years, three four five? Who knows?

The stone: Washington Geology

Ignoring the obvious lack of a pair of legs on the man in the bowler hat and his incongruous scale to the men he is supposed to be standing alongside in this photograph and the equally incongruous man in the white shirt in the right foreground the copy underneath it reads to me like an accurate description of what the machine is doing.

2021-03-11 14.43.17 www.dnr.wa.gov c899b38ac149.jpg
It also shows that at least in 1908 the date attributed to the photograph states "the hoses" so it is sensible to assume that hoses were available during the build of the library so equally sensible to assume there were stone working machines in use possibly powered by steam and possibly compressed air was produced by steam powered compressors. Either way machines were being used in the working the stones under the removable roof.

An interesting insight into what is said to have been going on in the late 1800's. Could be reusing finished stone from earlier structures which could, nothing more, could point to pre existing stone built buildings in the Seattle area. It makes perfect sense to reuses stone that has already been worked unlike today where everything is trashed and nothing is reused. We really are a stupid society of supposedly intelligent people.

2021-03-11 14.50.19 www.dnr.wa.gov 54c9bed168a4.jpg

These cranes in the photograph dated 1904 are the same design/style as those in the library photographs and good luck to a traction engine being able to maneuver through that little rock pile.

2021-03-11 14.57.07 www.dnr.wa.gov f739ceeb1537.jpg

Newspapers exaggerating, colour me shocked!

2021-03-11 15.00.34 www.dnr.wa.gov 8362445d2b21.jpg

2021-03-11 15.01.26 www.dnr.wa.gov 60ad854a4289.jpg

Tenino today: The Tenino Stone. One of the big three Washington state building stones.

Here is one take on why the steps were needed after the building was first finished.
The site was on a rather steep hill fronted by wooden sidewalks and a dirty 4th Avenue. When its front door opened to the public on December 19, 1906, there was no need for a grand stairway.

Within two years, however, the construction of the Carnegie Library resumed when City Engineer R. H. Thomson (1856-1949) directed the regrading of 4th Avenue. At Madison Street, 4th Avenue was lowered 10 feet. One block north at Spring Street, it was lowered two feet more. This put the entrance of the library on the second floor, and required the construction of a grand front stairway to reach the front door.
I guess what I am trying to say with this is that i thought sandstone is a uniform stone but this one looks like it is a conglomerate due to the rocks of differing colour which looks like the aggregate needed for concrete. I am no stone expert so I am willing to be corrected!
The stone was acid etched prior to installation to create a uniform colour. Its described in that pdf I linked to above. Sandstone is a conglomerate as you can see where any sandstone is decaying. It is layered and decays in layers especially where ice can get in a force them apart.

Edit to add: A site I remembered from sh v/1 which is chock full of the machinery and dates in use Quarry & Workshop Equipment

One describing the working method at the Tenino stone quarry and some qualities of the stone itself: The Pittock Mansion, A Sandstone Chateau - Written in Stone
Last edited:
The above reply is something for me to delve into after work. I will just say this for right now.

I’m pretty sure we could use some of the older equipment, e.g. those cranes even today if we could find them. Or, we could use cranes we produce today 100 years from now, if they survive. Or, we could start making simple cranes they used in the above photographs today, if something happened, and our contemporary cranes became useless, and making new operation

A while ago I went camping with my school class, and did not bring a spoon. Ended up carving one out of a tree branch. It looked ugly, but served its purpose. It also was in sharp contrast to the rest of the camping foodware like plates, cups etc. Essentially, it was a technological mismatch. But... a boy gotta do what a boy gotta do, when normal stuff is not available.

It’s obvious that we could use horses as our main mode of transportation even today, but there are reasons we don’t. Those people were not different from us, and if they had public buses running around in 1820s, but 80 years later people had to use horses to get around, there had to be a reason more serious than the PTB provided one, for people to go back to the inferior mode of transportation requiring no technological knowledge.

Additionally, if we factor in all of them claimed by the PTB industrial revolutions, certain things simply do not make sense.

Well, imho, this is a type technological mismatch we are witnessing. Buildings do not match the technology shown. Of course, one could argue that even ancient Romans were in business, of constructing similar structures, and they definitely did not have any advanced equipment. Well, that’s BS, no matter what angle we approach it from, and there are plenty of articles on this blog to explain what I mean.

Examining 1860s and non-advertised technology they had back then (which, judging by the sheer volume of patents filed in s short period of time was nothing but an indoctrination of the pre-existing tech), it becomes obvious, that 40 some years later in early 1900s, photographs show very outdated levels of technology being used. We are not talking about some isolated incidents here, because this trend is overwhelmingly predominant. In the best case scenario we have some remarkable stagnation of technological development.

One of the first and most basic needs people have is the ability to move around, and to move stuff around. We are given horses in 1900. May be, instead of trying to justifying the use of horses in 1900 we should try to explain why in 1860s and 1880s they had the exact same technology they had in late 1820, and why in 1900 we do not even see them using the tech they allegedly had in 1880s. Yet, after all these industrial revolutions we are still using the same transportation tech used by Alexander the Great thousands of years ago. (Well, the narrative wants us to think it was that long ago)

As far as I understand, today, there is nothing wrong with digging a small hole in the ground with my regular shovel. But there are limits to the size of such a whole. If the size of a whole I need to dig is 100 feet long, 100 wide, and 50 feet deep, I’m not gonna hire 500 people with shovels, I’m gonna hire one dude and one excavator. But if the entire world suffers an event pushing it back into the stone age, and I still need that huge hole, I will be forced to hire an army with manual shovels.

The bottom line is. Our research shows that they had technology superior to the one they show in 1900 for at least 50 years prior to it. The PTB demonstrates time and time again, that they had some super-smart individuals capable of singlehandedly designing a monster ship, or whatever. Yet, none of them geniuses thought of a construction load bearing truck or a mobile crane? Of course they did. This crane is dated with 1873.


And stuff like this was mass produced.

Thinking that noone thought of attaching such a crane to a steam traction engine is absurd. Dang, of course they did.




What do we have in Wikipedia about mobile vehicle mounted cranes? 1922!
  • Before 1870 crane were fixed to a position, except for some mounted on flatcars, which provided some restricted movement.
  • Appleby Brothers demonstrated steam-powered cranes at Paris in 1867 and Vienna in 1873.
  • In 1922, Henry Coles, manager of Appleby Corp., began producing truck-mounted cranes under the name Petrol Electric Lorry Crane.
  • Source
Essentially, no matter what piece of construction equipment we think of, we learn that they had it between 1860s and 1880s at least. Yet, photographed construction sites show us nothing but some archaic stuff being used. We need to find the root cause of that, and figure out why. That is instead of trying to explain why certain things could be done that way during the time frame when there was absolutely no (PTB provided) known reason for this to be happening.

To a certain degree we could probably correlate this equipment issue with events of this type, but we still do not know what exactly happened.
discovering the name of the building firm is beyond me

And that is what I'm starting to think is the real riddle here (and with many other "quick build" projects), more than the actual structure and even the architects. There's an overall sense in the alternative history community (thanks to "mudflood" oversaturation, pun intended) that all of these buildings were just dug out of the ground, shined up, and then were ready to showcase, when the evidence for many individual cases does not seem to indicate that, the deeper one looks.

None of that is to dismiss the idea entirely, but I suggest that it's over-applied (grand unified theories of anything are a fool's errand). It makes sense to me if there were mass events that altered the environment and buried existing infrastructure, then most of what was buried would not be in a useable form. And maybe that's what they dug up... as KD put it, "recycling" previously refined materials and then adapting to new structures. Combined with unadvertised technology and/or overstated efficiency with regards to construction timeframes, this seems like a plausible solution... for examples like this library anyway. The further we go back in history, the more options are on the table, I think.

Problem is proving it and sometimes these building firms have been apparently neglected to be mentioned in the historical record. At least the online one... again, boots on the ground are necessary to unravel this.

Anyway, wild speculation over, I'll resume reading the thread now!
grand unified theories of anything are a fool's errand
Problem is proving it and sometimes these building firms have been apparently neglected to be mentioned in the historical record. At least the online one... again, boots on the ground are necessary to unravel this.
One explanation is the use of mafia(for want of a better word) type construction firms to keep it off the record, more so when government money taps can be endlessly drained.
First of all, jd is amazing, as always. There's a lot to digest in this post and I always appreciate the healthy back and forth.
The vegetation in the finished building with the scaffold is regrowth weeds that spring up whenever soil is disturbed.
Just had to address this. Let's pull up the 1905 picture again:


The bottomline to me here is that that tree on the right side of the building, at the very least, was not there when they were digging up the foundation. I can't prove that photographically, but come on (excellent argument, right?). Which means to me that they transplanted it prior to the end of the overall construction. Which just seems kind of odd.
The site was on a rather steep hill fronted by wooden sidewalks and a dirty 4th Avenue. When its front door opened to the public on December 19, 1906, there was no need for a grand stairway.

Within two years, however, the construction of the Carnegie Library resumed when City Engineer R. H. Thomson (1856-1949) directed the regrading of 4th Avenue. At Madison Street, 4th Avenue was lowered 10 feet. One block north at Spring Street, it was lowered two feet more. This put the entrance of the library on the second floor, and required the construction of a grand front stairway to reach the front door.

Just reading this though, makes me think... what a chore. I mean, can you actually imagine this? I'm no architect, but would your first floor now suddenly becoming your second floor be an event that you'd like to plan for? Was he asked before the regrading and responded, "yeah, you can do that. It's a helluva building, man, I designed her that the first floor could be the fourth if you wanted it. Cuz I'm the Contest Winner, Holmes!"

Seriously though, on a larger scale, think of what a hellish existence living in Seattle would have been like from say 1880 on. Massive build-up, massive destruction, and then another massive build-up which including literally terraforming the entire city. Machinery running 'round the clock... smoke and dirt and scaffolding everywhere. Basically nothing you'd want to put in your city brochure. So maybe depicting guys with simple tools and horses (the good ol' Wild West) was a propaganda campaign. Come move to Seattle! It's the simple life! It's not like living in a massive factory at all! However, I don't think that explains the totality of this:
Essentially, no matter what piece of construction equipment we think of, we learn that they had it between 1860s and 1880s at least. Yet, photographed construction sites show us nothing but some archaic stuff being used. We need to find the root cause of that, and figure out why.
But I mention it as another factor. In my experience, any large scale project only gets momentum because of a variety of stakeholders with different agendas. And the scale we're dealing with here only amplifies that effect, I think.

Similar articles