A Library Begins

Following receipt of the August 23, 1876, letter to the Library trustees from Willard Carpenter, the trustees sent a letter of their own, accepting their new roles.

On August 23, 1876, Willard and Lucina Carpenter—although she reportedly opposed the idea—executed a deed of trust, conveying the promised property to the Library Trustees.

In the spring of 1877, at age 74, Willard Carpenter, hoping to speedily complete the library project, made two trips to Chicago to consult with architects. Robert Boyd and Henry Brickley were chosen to be the architects for the job, and groundbreaking was scheduled for May 17.

By August 13, the stone foundation had been completed to the top of the water table, and by September 2, 1877, the stonework was finished. But at that point, the foundations were sealed to be made weathertight. The real estate market was very weak, and the trustees had decided to wait to continue construction until their land holdings—the source of project funding—could command higher selling prices.

Quelling rumors that the project had been abandoned, work on the Library resumed in 1882. Carpenter wanted to see the Library built in his lifetime, and although the land values had not rebounded as hoped, he was ready to “hurry matters up.”

The former architects were no longer in business in Evansville, but their successors, James and Merritt Reid, took over the project.

With construction in full swing in 1883, Willard Carpenter, now 80 years old, was on the job site every day, inspecting the work of the paid laborers—and working. Not everyone was thrilled with that arrangement. His family was said to be embarrassed that he was hauling around wheelbarrows and climbing up on the roof; and one has to wonder how excited the workers were to have his watchful eye on them daily.

His work came to an end, however, in late October 1883, when Carpenter suffered a paralyzing stroke. On November 3, he died.