Venue History

Classic Community Center

Located in the heart of Washington, DC at Mt. Vernon Square, the Carnegie Library is rooted in deep history.

Though its name and uses have evolved since it first opened more than a century ago, this Washington, DC landmark has endured as a cultural, historic and civic icon in the heart of the nation’s capital. Learn more about the library’s storied past and innovative future.

From University for the People to Community Center for Creativity: A History of The Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square

1899 – Scottish immigrant turned steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie offers to donate a public library to the nation’s capital if Congress will provide the site, which it quickly agrees to do at Mt. Vernon Square.

1903 - Dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt and benefactor Andrew Carnegie, the “Washington Public Library” first opened its doors. The “University for the People” was the first public library in Washington, DC and the city’s first racially integrated public building, embodying Carnegie’s commitment to philanthropy and self- improvement. The beaux-arts style building, made of Vermont marble, cost $350,000 to build and was designed by the New York firm of Ackerman & Ross.

1969 – The landmark building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as "Central Public Library.”

1972 - The building was used as the central public library for Washington, D.C. for almost 70 years before it became overcrowded and the collection was relocated to Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.

1999 - After remaining closed for ten years, the library was renovated and became the headquarters for the Historical Society of Washington, DC.

2003 - After raising over $20 million for renovations, the Historical Society opened the City Museum in 2003. The museum closed a year later, but the Historical Society remained, offering community exhibits and programs.

2011 - The Historical Society partnered with Events DC to manage the building and its space rentals.

2016 -  Apple began the most extensive historic restoration project to-date, reconstituting and revitalizing the building according to its original design standards by carefully preserving historic facades, maintaining the original footprint of the interior and restoring early 20th-century detailing.

2019 - The Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square officially reopened its doors as one of 13 flagship Apple locations across the world, featuring creative sessions on music, design, coding, photography, video and art. The Library is home to the DC History Center, which includes the Carnegie Gallery featuring historic photographs and documents about the origins and history of the building. Also housed at the building are the Kiplinger Research Library, three galleries and a museum store, all owned and operated by the 125-year-old Historical Society of Washington, DC.

2019 - The first episode of Oprah's Book Club, a television series produced by Apple, is filmed at the Library with a live audience and airs the same year.