The Carnegie Foundation Library in Greenville that wasn’t meant to be

Nathan Law

When Furman’s new president, Edwin Poteat, arrived in Greenville from Philadelphia in the fall of 1903, the university was on an upswing. It was enrolling nearly 200 students, the most since the 1850s. John D. Rockefeller had just donated $100,000 to its endowment. But the university needed a library. Just […]

When Furman’s new president, Edwin Poteat, arrived in Greenville from Philadelphia in the fall of 1903, the university was on an upswing.

It was enrolling nearly 200 students, the most since the 1850s. John D. Rockefeller had just donated $100,000 to its endowment.

But the university needed a library. Just weeks after he arrived, Poteat wrote to Pennsylvania philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. The immensely wealthy Scots steel tycoon had begun supporting town libraries in Scotland and the United States in 1898. By the turn of the century, dozens — hundreds — of towns and cities were asking for his help.

While the community had to provide a site and guarantee future support, Carnegie’s foundation supplied building funds. And Furman’s need was great.

The college’s collection of 1,465 books (400 others were classified as “rubbish”) were housed in one large room in Richard Furman Hall, the main building. The room was also used as a chapel. The library’s annual budget was $50 for magazines and $100 for a part-time librarian.

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