I recently was lucky enough to find two old photographs of the library building at the Soldiers’ Home. The library building was designed by Smithmeyer and Pelz in 1877 and razed in 1910, 33 years later.
The first photo shows the library in the background with the Sherman building in the foreground. As the Sherman building was built in 1889, and as Stanley Hall (built in 1897) isn’t in the photo, it likely dates to the early 1890s.
(Cabinet Card of Sherman Hall and the Soldiers’ Home library ca. 1890s).
The second photo was taken ca. 1905, again showing the library with Stanley Hall in the back ground.
(A magic lantern slide of the library and Stanley Hall ca. 1905).
The library was originally designed for use as an officers billiard room and bowling alley, but its purpose was altered in the midst of construction from that of a clubhouse to a library for enlisted men. Due to its enormous building expense, the elaborate porch was not added until five years after the main structure was finished.
The Soldiers’ Home governor and other members of the board were never overly enthusiastic about the building, and shortly after it was completed passed a rule that future Soldiers’ Home buildings would be designed by military architects.
By 1910, the library was overflowing with 8,000 books and the commissioners decided to build Grant Hall — a much-needed new dormitory — on the site of the library.
The map below shows the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home in 1891, with the site of the library building noted.