The Building's History
Antigo’s first library was a rental library in a store in the mid 1890’s. In 1897 a free public library opened. It outgrew its space and by 1901 the Antigo Public Library had 2,100 registered borrowers, 40% of the city’s population.
The funding for a separate building came from a grant from Andrew Carnegie who funded libraries around the world. His donations helped establish 1679 libraries throughout the U.S. and 63 in Wisconsin.
In 1903 the city of Antigo applied for a grant and received $12,500 for a new library building. The site chosen was that of Antigo’s first high school, built in 1883 but no longer in use. In 1903 the city contracted with Alan D. Conover as the building’s architect. The Antigo construction company of Dallman and Peterson was chosen to build the library in 1904. The building was designed by one of Wisconsin’s most prominent architects and engineers. Allan D. Conover was an architect and civil engineer and professor at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Conover designed the library in the Georgian Revival and Colonial Revival styles popular in the final decades of the 19th and the early 20th century. It was nostalgia for an earlier time that made Georgian Revival architecture popular. The exterior of the building exhibits several traits common to buildings of this style and era. There is the eclectic use of elements from other styles of America’s colonial period including Classical, Federal and Baroque style windows and the building’s Federal style annular portico. Yet, Conover’s design is clearly that of an early twentieth century building. This was the last building Conover designed and his only library. While the architectural style looked back to an earlier time his design used the latest technology for structure and operating systems. The building was completed in 1905 and opened its doors to the public on November 8 1905.
The building continued to grow in use through the 20th century. Yet the building maintained much of its original integrity. Its exterior has remained largely unchanged since being built. The second floor was left unfinished in 1905 for later library expansion but has served a number of uses by various groups including the Teacher Training School from 1906 to 1926 and then by various groups including the Antigo Public Schools, Antigo Chamber of Commerce, Girl Scouts, Red Cross, Peace Lutheran School, civil defense and selective service offices, and a University of Wisconsin-Extension center. In 1940-41 the Langlade County Historical Society remodeled the second floor for use as a museum. Much of the original workmanship is still apparent in the masonry and brickwork as well as the woodwork of the interior.
Towards the end of the 20th century the library had outgrown its Carnegie building and in 1997 a new library opened and the Carnegie building became the home of the Langlade County Historical Society. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.