First Library

Date in History: 1890-1916

The first public library in Fort Atkinson opened in 1892 thanks to the efforts of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It was located on the second floor of the old Wigdale building, or where JM Carpets is today. Space was limited here, so the city, like many other towns across the country, applied to the Andrew Carnegie Foundation hoping to get a Carnegie library grant. Unlike Jefferson, however, Fort’s request was denied.

Lucky for us, into the breach stepped Henry Southwell who pledged $10,000 for a public library to be named in honor of his father-in-law, Dwight Foster. The new public library at the corner of East Milwaukee and Merchants Avenue opened in 1916. Well-planned additions to the original building in 1931, and again in 1983, have resulted in our library today.

This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 01/17/2005.

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