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Historical Society shares photographs 90 years apart celebrating historic downtown structure

COURTESY PHOTO: GRESHAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY - The Gresham Historical Society discovered a photograph of the Gresham Carnegie Library from the 1930s. Local history lovers marveled at the changes surrounding a century-old building in Gresham, most notably the growth of a birch tree at the front of the structure.

The Gresham Historical Society posted side-by-side photos of the Gresham Carnegie Library, which now serves as the Gresham History Museum, after a volunteer archivist discovered a photograph snapped of the structure in the 1930s.

In the historic photograph, there is a young birch sapling at the front of the building, which now has grown into a towering tree that provides shade and keeps the building's air conditioning bill in check.

The Gresham Carnegie Library is one of the most iconic structures in East Multnomah County. The Tudor-style building, with inspirations from 19th century United Kingdom architecture, was designed by Folger Johnson and built in 1913.

It served as a public library in the Multnomah County system until 1989, taking over for the original town library in the back room of the local post office. For decades the Carnegie building served as the centerpiece of the town, hosting club meetings, story hours and lectures.

COURTESY PHOTO: GRESHAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY - A current photograph of the History Museum shows not much has changed, other than the rapid growth of the birch tree out front. Eventually the space was outpaced by booming growth across Gresham, and a new library was built a few blocks away in downtown. In December of 1989, more than 500 volunteers formed a human chain between the old and new libraries to finally move all the books to their new home.

As soon as plans were hatched to vacate the Carnegie building, the Gresham Historical Society began fundraising to purchase and preserve the space. They were successful after staggering support from the community, and the structure was renovated to properly house artifacts and documents. In 2012 the building received another significant round of renovations, though the building continued to appear much as it did upon first opening.

The Gresham Carnegie Library, 410 N. Main Ave., is on the National Register of Historic Places.


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