Archive for Sunday, May 1, 2011

Carnegie divide

Balancing uses in the former Carnegie Library is fine for now, but it would be great for the city if the demands of being the center of a new national heritage area eventually take over the building.

May 1, 2011


Some problems are good to have. That seems to be the case at the former Carnegie Library building at Ninth and Vermont streets.

The city has done a fine job of restoring the important public building and once again making it functional. In fact, it appears the building has become such an asset that there is some friction over who should use it and at what price.

As we previously reported, the city recently raised the fee it charges to rent the facility on weekends by more than $400 after some private banquet business complained the city’s rate was below fair market value.

Also, some concerns were expressed about whether the facility can function both as a banquet facility and as a home for the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area. The group that runs the heritage area has its offices in the lower level of the building, and work on the building’s main floor to create permanent displays highlighting the region’s history will be completed in May. Whether the facility can serve as a visitors center for the heritage area and a banquet hall for weddings and other events is a legitimate question.

In the short term, the answer is probably yes. But as a community, we should hope that the heritage area’s uses for the building grow to the point that there is room to do little else. Douglas County has a real opportunity to establish itself as the birthplace of the Civil War. In the late 1850s, the eyes of America were fixated on eastern Kansas and western Missouri. A great question hung over the country. The events that would take place in the hills and valleys surrounding Lawrence would go far in answering it: Would the institution of slavery embark on a westward march?

It did not. It was here that slavery met its brick wall.

It is important on many levels for Lawrence and the rest of the federal heritage area to tell that story and other stories related to the search for freedom. Being the center of Freedom’s Frontier could be a tremendous tourism boon for the local economy, but just as importantly, it is a strong reminder of the foundation upon which this city was built.

Promoting Freedom’s Frontier is an appropriate core mission for the Carnegie building. At least for now, the building also can serve as a rental space for various local events. However, if interest and activities related to Freedom’s Frontier eventually take over the former library it would be a positive development for Lawrence and the surrounding area.


Jennifer Dropkin 6 years, 10 months ago

I wish that the Journal-World would be a bit more transparent about its interest in the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

Ann Gardner is the editorial page editor, and she is on the board of the Watkins Museum of Community History, which is directly related to the Freedom’s Frontier NHA by the involvement of Judy Billings, executive director of the Freedom’s Frontier NHA and executive director of Destination Management, Inc., which operates Lawrence’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, and former president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

The J-W’s interest in the use of the Carnegie building is not free from the related interests of these organizations.

Jessica Schilling 6 years, 10 months ago

It's sad to see the beautiful space at the Carnegie library now priced out of many small groups' budgets for holding meetings and other special events. It's extremely difficult to find a reasonably priced gathering space in this town if you're not affiliated with the university and therefore able to use KU meeting space - particularly if you're not in need of catering services, which are often mandatory with many meeting rooms in the city.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago


And, it's somewhat absurd for the city to raise their prices due to a complaint from a private person that they can't compete with that.

The whole point of city services/subsidies is that they offer a lower cost alternative to the private sector.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.