History of the Fort Smith Public Library
A copy of an early photograph of the original Carnegie Library in Fort Smith.
The Fort Smith Public Library's beginnings can be traced to the formation of the Fortnightly Club on October 7, 1891. The library was formally opened on July 27, 1892 in the Belle Grove school building. There were 1,100 books on the shelves. By 1902 the library had grown to be the largest public library in the state of Arkansas.
In 1904 the Fort Smith Reading Room Association and the Fortnightly Library Association formed a permanent organization, named the Fort Smith Public Library Association, whose purpose was to raise money for a new library building. After securing a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, the library was able to build the first Carnegie library in the state. The building, constructed in 1907 on North 13th street, was built on the site of the house in which Judge Isaac Parker died.
In the early 1950s the board of regents began talking about remodeling the 40+ year-old Carnegie building to make room for more books. They ended up building a new building instead, which was located on South 8th Street. Construction on the 35,000 square foot building began in 1969 and was completed in 1970.
In 1995 the Library, in conjunction with Library Planning Associates, Inc., conducted a space needs assessment to plan for the next 25 years. The study results indicated that in order to serve the citizens of Fort Smith adequately in the future, the library would need a new central library building, a new branch on the south side of town, a new branch on the east side of town, and a new branch on the north side of town. In October 1997 the voters of Fort Smith passed a sales tax to pay for several civic improvement projects, including the library project's four locations:
Construction on the new Main Library Building located at 3201 Rogers Avenue began in 1999. The new 60,000 square foot facility opened in February of 2001.
The Stonewood Village Branch, first established in January 1995, was located in Stonewood Village Shopping Center across from St. Edwards Hospital. In February 2000, the Dallas Street Branch opened its doors at 8100 Dallas Street.
The Market Trace Branch, established in June 1996, was temporarily located in a shopping center at the foot of Fianna Hills. It became the Miller Branch in April 2000, when its permanent facility opened at 8701 South 28th Street.
The Windsor Street Branch, located at 4701 Windsor Drive, opened its doors in March 2000. This is the first time there has been a library on the north side in quite a while.
The Fort Smith Public Libraryís new Main Library building was chosen to be on the cover of Library Journalís Architectural Issue, published in December, 2001. Between July, 2000 and June, 2001, there were 80 new library buildings built and 132 additions/renovations
totaling over 4 million square feet and costing more than $686 million. The Fort Smith Public Library was one of 28 Libraries whose
photographs were used in the issue. To read the article from Library Journal
History of Fort Smith
Fort Smith is located at the western edge of Arkansas. The Arkansas River, located at the western edge of town, marks the border between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The city of Fort Smith has a long and interesting history. For some historical information about Fort Smith, check out these links:
- The Fort Smith Museum of History, founded in 1910, provides a "social and cultural history of the Territory."
- The Fort Smith Convention and Visitor's Bureau provides links to other Fort Smith historical sites, among other information.
- The Fort Smith National Historic Site, a National Park Service installation, showcases the history of Fort Smith with artifacts from the original settlement through the Judge Isaac Parker to the present.
- The Fort Smith Historical Society Journal website provides access to Fort Smith's historical journal (current issue) and an index of back issues. We gratefully acknowledge the UA Fort Smith Boreham Library for providing the index to the public as a service to the community.
- The Civil War in Arkansas, sponsored by the Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas, provides information about Arkansas' Civil War heritage.
- Freedmen of the Frontier contains a wealth of information about Fort Smith's African American History and Genealogy.
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|This Page Last updated: 16 July 2013|