About the Library

Library History

Our Library's History

Read how the CFPL was established and how it has evolved to become such an important part of our community.

In 1877 the people of Cedar Falls were asked to vote on the question of a free tax supported library. The proposition carried, and one year later over 1,300 books were housed in two large rooms on Main Street.

In the 1900's Andrew Carnegie began giving his money to towns for libraries. Local civic leaders requested and were given a Carnegie grant of $15,000. Sarah Dayton gave the city the lot on the corner of 6th and Main. In 1903 the Carnegie-Dayton Free Library was dedicated. This library had many additions and renovations and served the community until 2004 when it was demolished.

By the 1990's the Carnegie-Dayton Library ran out of space, and in 1997, a consultant recommended a new handicapped accessible building. In 2001 a site was selected next to the old building on Main Street. A referendum passed in 2001, and the city bonded for half of the cost. A major fund drive was started, and Adele Whitenack Davis gave 1 million dollars. Her donation started a "Great Communities Deserve Great Libraries" successful funding campaign. Struxture Architects of Waterloo designed the 6 million dollar building and included a special wrap of terra cotta books with titles chosen by financial donors. Prairie Construction of Waterloo was the general contractor for the new 47,000 square-foot building which opened in March of 2004.

The current building is named after Adele Whitenack Davis. According to Ancestry, Adele Whitenack Davis was born on July 9th, 1920 in Union City, New Jersey to her parents Hugh and Loretta McGinty Whitenack. Her biography on Allen College's website notes that Adele was a computer programmer in New York and Los Angeles during WWII. She went to Hunter college and married T. Wayne Davis on August 14th, 1946. They moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa where Adele became a Statistical Research Worker for the California Taxpayers Association in 1946.  Adele spent the rest of her life in Cedar Falls.  According to a local news report, Adele had a love of reading and donated money to kickstart the new library. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery with her husband in Cedar Falls, Iowa. 

The old Carnegie library served the city for over 100 years, and it is hoped the new library will be a vibrant addition to downtown. The "Library on Main" continues to be a rich Cedar Falls tradition.

Interested in more history?  Check out the Iowa Historical Society.

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