Monsanto Donates $500,000 to Downtown Central Library Project

Gift to St. Louis Public Library Foundation will support new Andrew Carnegie Room

ST. LOUIS – Today, Monsanto Company announced a $500,000 gift to the St. Louis Public Library Foundation’s Central To Your World capital campaign to create the new Andrew Carnegie Room in the revitalized downtown central library. The gift was jointly announced by Monsanto and the St. Louis Public Library Foundation.

Commenting on the gift, Monsanto Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff and Community Relations Jan Holloway said, “As a company headquartered here with more than 4,000 employees that call St. Louis home, we are very pleased to support this major downtown redevelopment project. St. Louis’ new Central Library will be a catalyst for further downtown revitalization and will provide all St. Louisans with a modern new downtown library. The St. Louis Public Library is an important community resource, and we are proud to play a role in its future.”

The capital campaign for the St. Louis Public Library, Central To Your World, is a $20 million philanthropic effort to support the $70 million total restoration and revitalization of the main library, which occupies a full city block between Locust and Olive Streets, and 13th and 14th Streets downtown. Alison Nichols Ferring and Thomas F. Schlafly serve as the campaign’s co-chairpersons.

“We are extremely grateful to Monsanto for this major gift and generous support of this key downtown project,” added Rick Simoncelli, president of the St. Louis Public Library Foundation. “Their gift, along with donations from other St. Louis corporations, businesses, foundations and individuals, is making it possible to restore one of St. Louis’ great buildings, which serves as the hub for our system wide operations.” 

The St. Louis Public Library welcomes more than two million visitors annually. Reopening in late 2012, Central Library will offer expanded facilities for public use and exhibits, including a new 244-seat auditorium and a coffee café.

In 1901, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie gave a gift of $1 million to the city of St. Louis to build a great city library. Carnegie designated $500,000 for a downtown central library and the other $500,000 to build citywide branches. (In today’s dollars, Carnegie’s gift would be worth $24.3 million.) Since the total cost to build the original Central was to be $2 million, the citizens of St. Louis accepted the challenge and raised the remaining $1.5 million in donations. Central Library was designed by Cass Gilbert, who designed many of America’s major buildings, and opened on Jan. 6, 1912, with more than 1,000 civic leaders and donors in attendance.

Central Library closed for construction in June of last year. In addition to the new third floor Andrew Carnegie Room, the project includes a 65 percent increase of space for public use, expanded children’s and teen rooms, a lower-level auditorium and other amenities, including the café. The refurbished Central Library is expected to re-open in late 2012, in time for its Centennial celebration. Book lending and all other library services continue to be available during construction through the St. Louis Public Library’s 16 other locations.

“The third floor Andrew Carnegie Meeting Room is particularly interesting because we uncovered a large Cass Gilbert-designed skylight above the room that had been covered for many years with a false ceiling,” noted Waller McGuire, executive director of the St. Louis Public Library. “It needed minor repairs, but otherwise, was completely intact. We also found a beautiful original wooden floor that had been hidden away for decades. These are just two of the many ‘surprises’ we’ve had during the restoration.”

The construction team includes CLR LLC, development consultant; Cannon Design, architect; and BSI Constructors, construction manager.

Central Library is among the largest construction projects in downtown St. Louis and is being funded through library resources, bond financing, tax credits and the St. Louis Public Library Foundation’s capital campaign.