Tiny buildings hold bigger mysteries in Rock Springs.
Published on 10/18/2018 | Author: Charlie Neil
When my sister got her driver’s license, we used to drive around downtown Rock Springs on the weekends. A lover of history, however mundane, she’d point out all of the old buildings, and tell me about when and why they were built.
A mind like a steel trap, I couldn’t believe the wealth of seemingly useless knowledge of our hometown she possessed.
She was always the smartest person I knew, even back then.
And while Rock Springs has a plethora of beautiful historic structures, her favorite was the Rock Springs Carnegie library.
In a fit of philanthropic glory during the late 1890s and the early 1910s, steel mogul Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of thousands of public libraries throughout the United States and the world. This was especially valuable for small towns like Rock Springs, where they wouldn’t otherwise be a library at all, and Carnegie Libraries became a small-town staple to this day.
All of the original libraries are now historic buildings swathed with tales of love and woe, many serving different purposes than just housing books through the years; but ours has an especially interesting history. Rumor has it that during World War II it was used as a military intelligence office and was largely responsible for researching the location for the Heart Mountain internment camp.
Supposedly after the war the military returned it to the city. However, in the 1960s it burned down under mysterious circumstances and it was almost immediately rebuilt. It gets weirder though. My grandfather used to tell Nat that it was rebuilt in just a few weeks, and the construction company that worked on it drove unmarked vans and everyone on the crew was from out of town.
Forty years later in 2001, right after the 9/11 terrorist attack, the city announced that homeland security had requested they seal a series of underground tunnels that connected most of the city buildings.
It took them around a day or two for most of the tunnels, but it took the city almost two months to seal up all the tunnels that lead out from the library. I met with a retired city employee and asked them why, and she told me she had no idea. Supposedly, they had cement trucks running constantly for weeks and weeks, pumping endlessly into the library basement. Whatever was there, if there was anything, now sits under thousands of pounds of rock solid cement.
And here’s the cherry on top. If you research the Rock Springs Carnegie library, none of this comes up. It’s not written down anywhere. Not online, not in the library itself.
The only thing that’s left is an old brick archway in the basement of the building. Past the old fashioned water fountains, and the terrible drop ceilings, in the far south-east side.
An archway that from floor to ceiling, for supposed security reasons, is completely filled with cement.