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For $150,000, You Could Own a Former Carnegie Library (But It Needs Work!)

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Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

It is not often that an old library building hits the housing market, and it is even rarer when one does, that it has the legacy of being a Carnegie Library. But right now, for a cool $150,000, you could be the owner of a former Carnegie Library in Middletown, Ohio. The catch is that the work to fix the building will be time, labor, and potentially financially intensive.

zillow image listing for middletown carnegie library.

Located at 1320 1st Ave, the 15,400 square foot building received $25,000 in funding from Andrew Carnegie in 1920. The city was responsible for purchasing the materials housed within the facility, as well maintaining it. Middletown’s library completed construction in 1913, and it operated as the city’s public library for 68 years until 1981, when it built a more modern, larger space in the town. Following the move, the facility was bought and sold several times. According to a local preservation society, the building was purchased in 2007 by the Citizens for Historic and Preservation Services, who created a group called the Carnegie Action Committee. The Committee and Middletown locals cleaned up the building, paid up the facility’s back taxes, and then sold the building to a local businessman. Nothing happened following that property transfer, and it was purchased in 2013 by a commercial holdings group.

The library was then purchased by a developer in 2018 for $5,000 who had plans to renovate the building and turn it into a space that would include a brewery, restaurant, and entertainment. This was after the city had considered demolishing it because of its state of disrepair.

Despite the developer’s enthusiasm and that of the community (as seen through the above Instagram feed), the project never came to fruition. He reported in 2018 that the renovations should be complete by summer 2020, but it continued to be delayed. In 2021, he believed that everything would be finished two years after the roof was replaced–but in August 2023, the property was put on the market.

The city of Middletown has several incentives prepared for anyone who purchases the property. It is zoned to be a multifamily dwelling, making it a potentially appealing project for someone with the capacity to fix up a long-neglected facility. The building is priced at $10 a square foot, down from an initial listing of $175,000 in August.

Find a few of the listing photos below to appreciate both the preserved historical details, as well as the real work involved in rehabilitating the former library. You can easily see the grandeur from its hey days, too:

Exterior of Middletown Carnegie library.
Interior of Middletown Carnegie library.
Interior of Middletown Carnegie library.
interior of Middletown Carnegie library.
interior of Middletown Carnegie library.
Interior of Middletown Carnegie library.
Interior of Middletown Carnegie library.

You can find the full listing for the property on Zillow.

If the name Middletown is ringing a bell but you cannot place it, it’s because this is the town featured in the book Hillbilly Elegy by Ohio politician JD Vance (it is where his family moved to after leaving Kentucky). Many consider him and his work fraudulent representations of class in America, but the impact of the book continues.

A hat tip to Cheap Old Houses for featuring the facility last week on their instagram feed. If you, like me, are a lover of all things old homes and cheap homes, you can pick up their new book, too, Cheap Old Houses: An Unconventional Guide to Loving and Restoring a Forgotten Home.