Mr. Carnegie’s Gift

Constructed with the profits of steel,
constructed in an era of empire and
imagination and progressiveness and
the belief in perfection of mind,
constructed with the systematic thought
that imagination could be collected and
rendered orderly, in beams and crossbeams
and foundation stones and those numbers
decimaled and gathered and numerated
in homage to Mr. Dewey,
constructed to extend her Belle Époque glory
and presence, eminent, graceful, solid,
her high-ceiling interiors, for there are
many interiors, chambers of her mind,
filled with printed and pixilated treasure,
she offers herself almost wantonly, a grande dame
strategically positioned by the streetlight,
always at her most commanding,
her most irresistible, transmitting her wares
at the speed of light, if still smelling
of old books, her offspring scattered north
and south, though none as grand.
She rises from a glorious past to speak
into an uncertain future.

The Central Library of the St. Louis Public Library system, designed by architect Cass Gilbert,  opened in 1912. It was constructed with a gift from Andrew Carnegie, the steel baron who endowed free public libraries all over the United States. The gift for St. Louis stipulated that several branch libraries were to be built as well. It is currently undergoing major renovation and will reopen in 2012 for its 100th birthday.

About stlouisisapoem

We live in this poem called St. Louis, a poem we're still writing. It's about history, and art, and politics, and business, buildings and streets, rich and poor, and food (of course), and all of the other things that make this city what it is and what it will become. We publish poems about St. Louis, and you're invited to contribute via the comments to posts (for now, until we get our communications organized). Send us a link or an email address, and we'll respond. Help us write the poem that is St. Louis.
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