Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square

photo by: Apple Inc.

Preservation Magazine, Fall 2019

Art and Commerce Mix at This Essential D.C. Historic Building

When the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square opened in 1903, the Beaux-Arts building served as the first public library in the nation’s capital. Funded by Andrew Carnegie and designed by Ackerman and Ross, it occupied a key 2.7-acre site in the heart of the city. But after the library moved out in the 1970s, the building went through intermittent periods of decline—until now. The newly rehabilitated, National Register–listed structure reopened in May, containing an Apple store and the DC History Center, home to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle oversaw the restoration work, using the original drawings as a guide. “When you look at the original plans of Ackerman and Ross, you can see the simplicity and clarity of the building,” says principal Hany Hassan. He and his team removed layers of added drywall, drop ceilings, and paint, restoring intact historical details such as a Guastavino tile arch system on the lower level and plaster molding throughout the building. They also restored the original windows and worked with Evergreene Architectural Arts to clean and repoint the exterior’s snowy Vermont marble and stately granite.

In addition to Apple’s signature white-walled retail spaces, the structure also houses rooms for the historical society. These include a research library and three exhibit galleries, one of which is devoted to a permanent exhibit on the building’s history.
Headshot Meghan Drueding

Meghan Drueding is the executive editor of Preservation magazine. She has a weakness for Midcentury Modernism, walkable cities, and coffee-table books about architecture and design.

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