This simple brick building was built in Kingstree in 1917 to house a public library for the people of Williamsburg County. Funding for the library was granted after the Kingstree Civic League petitioned for aid from the Carnegie Foundation.
The Carnegie Foundation was founded by business magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for the purpose of donating funds to establish libraries all over the world. From 1883 through 1929, 2,509 Carnegie libraries were built and made available to the public – 1,689 in the United States alone. The Williamsburg County Carnegie Library was one of 14 public libraries the foundation helped build in South Carolina.
In 1946 the State Library Board offered to exchange 200 books per quarter at the Kingstree library to maintain a diverse reading selection. This practiced continued for fifteen years. The Kingstree library then contracted with the Florence County library to maintain and increase its volume collection and later contracted with the county for bookmobile service in the rural communities. The relationship with Florence County lasted until 1977, at which time the library contracted with Sumter County for bookmobile service to nearby Greeleyville. Williamsburg County purchased its own bookmobile and added the service in 1986.
The library operated as Williamsburg County’s public library until two new libraries were built in the 1990s – a larger one in Kingstree and a branch library in Hemingway. The former Carnegie library now houses the Williamsburgh Historical Society.
The Williamsburg County Carnegie Library is listed in the National Register as part of the Kingstree Historic District:
The Kingstree Historic District contains forty-eight properties situated along Main Street, Academy Street, and Hampton Street in the commercial area of downtown Kingstree. The district includes the courthouse, public library, railroad station, and numerous commercial buildings. The district is a fine collection of nineteenth-century vernacular commercial architecture. Details such as arched doorways and windows, cast-iron columns and pilasters, decorative or corbelled brick work and pressed tin interior ceilings are present on most of the district’s buildings. The Williamsburg County Courthouse, built ca. 1823, and designed by Robert Mills, is a fine example of Roman Neo-Classical design with its raised first floor, pediment with lunette, and Doric columns. In 1953-54 the courthouse underwent substantial remodeling on the exterior and interior, though it still reflects much of Mill’s original design. With the exception of the courthouse, most of the buildings in the district were built between 1900 and 1920 when Kingstree enjoyed prosperity as a retail and tobacco marketing center of Williamsburg County. The majority of the buildings in the district are a visible record of this twenty-year growth and the historic fabric of the area remains substantially intact.
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