Now housing the Terrell Heritage Museum
207 N. Frances Street
This impressive two-story Beau Arts style structure was completed in 1904 using one of the thirty-two financial grants awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Grants were received across the State of Texas from 1898 until 1915. Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of 2509 public libraries between 1883 and 1929, with over $350 Million dollars of his personal fortune spent across Europe and the United States. This outlay was done via a series of pre-qualifying grants. From that $350 Million, $40 million was distributed to US cities and towns, of which Texas received $649,500 to build its 32 facilities.
The City of Terrell received a $10,000 distribution in 1903, based upon the extensive efforts made by five local women’s clubs to earn the town this prestigious honor. The Browning Club, Pioneer Club, the Terrell Garden Club, Women’s Wednesday Club and Terrell Social Science Club, along with the generous benefactor and influencer Edward Howland Robinson Green (known as Colonel Ned Green), all worked diligently for three years prior to receipt of funding to influence Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie, with both State and Federal politicians, selected Terrell as the 15th city in Texas to win this distinction. The State’s first recipient was Pittsburg, Texas on April 30, 1898. The last one built through grant was given to Vernon, Texas in 1915. *
The competition was fierce. These women, having neither the right to vote nor financial independence, leveraged all of their influence to achieve the shared goal of ensuring every Texan an opportunity to have free, public access to educational and literary materials. In an era where libraries were only found in the private homes and collections of wealthy families, a large number of the city’s inhabitants could not read or write. Books were hard to obtain and expensive to buy. These ladies worked diligently to raise additional funds through private donations, to augment the construction and operating funds needed to keep the library open and available to all. 1500 volumes were donated to the library on its opening day!
Terrell’s Carnegie Library served the public as a free, public institution for its first eighty six years. It was the only library in Kaufman County for several of those years. Its upstairs meeting room was used every Tuesday afternoon at 2 P.M. by the ladies of the Social Science Club. This group, organized in 1894, is still a vital and active contributor to the Terrell community. 2023 marks its 25th year to host Terrell’s Christmas in a Small Town home tour and it will celebrate its 130th anniversary next year! The Club continues its work to generate funding for civic, scholastic and humanitarian causes.
Terrell‘s Carnegie Library building is the only remaining operational Carnegie building in Kaufman County to carry three historic marker designations: a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark designation, a National Register of Historic Places and a Texas Historic Archaeological Landmark assignment.
Although the Library ended its operations as a public storehouse for books in 1990, it has operated as Terrell’s Heritage Museum since then. The Terrell Heritage Society now manages and staffs this facility. It houses many artifacts, photos and other printed memorabilia from the City’s past. The current exhibit on display features the history of Terrell Public Schools.
During your tour of this building, be sure to check out Terrell’s Bicentennial and Sesquicentennial documentation, information about the Mural Walk, or the very first automobile purchase made in Texas in 1899, among the many other interesting facts about the town. You might be surprised to learn how “famous” this place really is!
*See the chart of all Texas Carnegie Library locations and grants posted next to the photos of each one.