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Flecks of paint and drops of water splattered against the sidewalk just outside the Chippewa Falls Public Library Wednesday morning as city maintenance workers cleaned up a piece of city history.
Armed with a wire brush and pressure washer, Scot Michels and Pat Davis cleaned away the peeling paint that already revealed the tin and wood of the Carnegie Library Building sign. The sign had once once identified the city’s library.
“It’s really something,” Davis said, as he chipped away at the paint with the brush.
Last week Parks Department employees found the sign tucked away in a shed at Irvine Park. But at more than a dozen feet long and at least a foot tall, it’s hard to see how the sign stayed hidden for this long.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Dick Hebert, the sign was found in one of the sheds that will soon be torn down to make way for the zoo’s new welcome center. Many of the sheds contain artifacts, and the Parks Department does maintain an inventory list. But the sign wasn’t on any list that Hebert could find.
“We didn’t even know it was in there,” Hebert said explaining that the sign was behind a screen that concealed it.
Hebert also said that his department has no record of how the sign came to be at the park either.
What is known is that the sign belonged to the current library’s predecessor.
The public library today’s residents are familiar with opened its doors in 1969. The Carnegie Library stood just across Central Street — where Gordy’s Market is today — for almost another decade.
But that still means the sign has been floating around for almost 35 years.
What the library will do with the sign has yet to be determined.
“It’s a little bigger than we expected,” said library director Joe Niese. Originally Niese planned to hang the sign inside the library above the new book section. Those books sit on shelves that were used in the Carnegie Library. There is also other memorabilia from the old library in that area.
But after taking a look at the sign, Niese said it might not fit. He hasn’t decided whether the sign will be repainted either.
Whatever the library does, patrons can expect to see it in the near future.
“I want to get it up as soon as we can,” Niese said.
Niese is also planning on posting a picture of the old building on the library’s Facebook page as a part of the library’s Throwback Thursday program.
Industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated $40 million from 1886 to 1919 to be used for 1,679 libraries bearing his name. Wisconsin received money for 65 libraries, including ones in Eau Claire, Barron and Ladysmith. Chippewa Falls received a grant of $20,000 for its Carnegie Library on Feb. 15, 1902.