Cowles Library - 1937 Building

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Cowles Library - 1937 building

Originally submitted by William Leidig, Drake University, October 2011

Updated June, 2012 by Dr. Susan Fink

Cowles southside.jpg
Cowles reading room.jpg

Drake University was in need of a new library. The original Carnegie Library provided limited space and was out of date. The Gardner Cowles Foundation vowed to donate a new library for Drake University. The official ground-breaking ceremony was held at commencement time in the spring. Cowles Library could fit 330 students and had 28,000 square feet. The new two-story, colonial designed structure was constructed to permit expansion[1].

Gardner Cowles, Sr. had been a member of the Drake Board of Trustees and knew that the Carnegie Library was an inadequate building for the expanding University. Dr. D. W. Morehouse called the Director of Libraries on Christmas morning, 1936, telling of the $100,000 contribution from the Gardner Cowles Foundation for the erection of a new library. The blueprints for the proposed library were made by Grover Hubbell. The building was to be located on the west side of the campus and face University Avenue. This would be the first new building on the main campus since 1907. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 6, 1937 at 11:45 a.m. by President Morehouse. Excavation was held the next day.[2]

The following is a Drake Relay Pamphlet[3]:

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The building was a Georgian colonial structure. It featured a ventilating system where the air was humidified to a relaxed temperature. There were three reading rooms in the new library. The second floor had a reference room that housed 200 periodicals and the reference collection[1]. The periodical room contained roughly 300 current periodicals. The other reading room contained the reserve books. The library featured glass bricks to light the stack space that were set in the rear wall. The stacks contained 60,000 volumes. The lighting of the building was set by large windows, venetian blinds, and holophane lights.[2]

Rare photo of the northside of the original Cowles Library building

Cowles Library - 1937 Building - Rare North Side View. Photo is from Sept. 1952

Picture of Cowles Library - 1937 Building Today (2011)


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Sources Cited

[1] Slavens, T. P. (1962). A History of the Drake University Libraries. (Unpublished Theses). Drake University, Des Moines, IA.

[2] Slavens, T.P. (1962) A Centenial Overview. (History of the Drake University Librairies). Drake University, Des Moines, IA

[3] Drake Relay catalog (1932)