Carnegie Library and Mount Vernon Square


Why Was the Library Called Carnegie?

In 1903, steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie made a gift of a public library to the citizens of the District of Columbia.  The building was erected on Mount Vernon Square, a crossroads for major city thoroughfares and a meeting point between what were then downtown’s federal offices and largely white-owned businesses and the African American-dominated U Street commercial corridor and Howard University. When it opened, it as known as the Washington Public Library.

Mount Vernon Square Historic District

The Washington Public Library served black and white patrons for over 60 years.  Most recently, Apple renovated and restored the building to be a showcase retail space.  But did you know that the world’s first billion-dollar company shares digs with the D.C. History Center?  Formerly known as the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. it’s the collector, interpreter, and sharer of District of Columbia history since 1894—shortly before the “Carnegie Library” made its debut.  Join this walk through the Mount Vernon Square Historic District and see it as well as

  • Where riots occurred 100 years ago when heroic black veterans returning home from World War I demanded equal rights;
  • The Pentecostal Holiness church that helped the neighborhood survive the urban renewal era;
  • The arched-ceiling basement space within the 1903 library originally designated as bicycle parking;
  • Breathtaking panoramic photographs that relay D.C. history in captivating detail.

The walk will include a guided tour of the Carnegie Library building.

How many Carnegie Libraries are left in the United States? 

Thanks to grants provided by Andrew Carnegie, 1,689 public libraries were built in cities and towns throughout the U.S. Of those, about 750 are still functioning as libraries today.

People who liked this D.C. walking tour also liked: Renewing Urban Renewal and Van Ness and the International Chancery Center

Guides that may lead this tour: 
Portrait of Carolyn

CAROLYN attributes her devotion to walking tours to perambulations through her new hometown when she arrived to earn an M.F.A. in Acting from The Catholic University of America. She is the founder of Washington Walks.

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Available for private and group tour bookings. Please email for more information.

Approximately 2 hours
Available for private bookings.

Please email us for a private or group tour quote.

Walk departs from outside the Mount Vernon Square-Convention Center Metro station.
Questions? Answers here.

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