A Brief History of the Building and
the Historical Society
Center School occupied the site at East Sixth and Washington from 1854 until 1913. Originally used by white students, it became a school for African-American students in Bloomington in 1881. In 1913 the Andrew Carnegie Corporation awarded a $31,000 grant to the Monroe County Library Board for the construction of a public library on the site.
In February 1918 the new Bloomington Public Library opened its doors to patrons. The building would serve the needs of county residents for the next 52 years. Following the completion of a more modern library facility on Kirkwood Avenue, the Library Board closed the Carnegie Library building in 1970.
The future of the old library remained uncertain until 1978, when The Old Library, Inc., a nonprofit organization, purchased the site from the city. TOLI renovated the old building and by 1980 other nonprofit organizations such as the Bloomington Area Arts Council and the Monroe County Historical Society had leased space for their operations. In 1981 the Society’s Genealogy Library moved in.
In 1994 TOLI sold the building to the Monroe County Historical Society for $1.00. Following the Build History fundraising campaign, the Society added an additional 12,000 square feet to the old library building in 1997-1998. The facility now boasts exhibit galleries of 8,000 square feet, an expanded genealogy and local history research library, a museum store, and an education room.