The C.E. Brehm Memorial Public Library Building Celebrates 115 years

The original Mt. Vernon Carnegie Library building, that is now the C.E. Brehm Memorial Public Library, opened for business in August 1905. The library had been established in 1899 and had been housed on the second floor of the old Mammoth Department store on the town square. Local businessmen worked to secure a donation from Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, and the city accepted $12,500.00 from Mr. Carnegie. On April 8, 1903, the city resolved to "furnish a suitable site and grounds upon which to erect said building, and to appropriate, levy, and raise, by direct taxation or otherwise," 10% of the donation annually to support the library. Our library is one of the 1,689 which were built in the United States funded by Carnegie. Property was optioned in Green's subdivision of block twelve (101 South 7th Street) for $7,000.00. The library has continued to operate from these premises to this day.

Over the years, numerous remodeling projects were tackled. In 1962, the third floor (auditorium) was remodeled to house the children's department. The basement remodeling was finished in 1968 with the completion of a room for magazines, newspapers, and local history and genealogy research.

During the 1970's it became clear that more space was needed in the library along with remodeling for accessibility. A study determined the need for two wings, elevator and a parking lot.

In 1978, Mr. & Mrs. Clarence E. Brehm gave the library board a challenge when they pledged $300,000 for the project. The library was required to raise the matching funds by December 1980. Unfortunately Mr. Brehm died on July 9, 1980, but the library board was able to match the funds on October 31st and the city council renamed the Mt. Vernon library the C.E. Brehm Memorial Library on November 3, 1980. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on May 16, 1981 and the addition was completed 1982.

In April 2003, the voters of the twelve previously unserved townships in Jefferson County approved the April 1, 2003 annexation to expand the library district. As a result the library now serves residents in 15 townships in Jefferson County.