In 1926, after several years of dedicated effort, the Dwight Women’s Club presented the village of Dwight with a special gift at 108 S. Prairie Street in Dwight, Illinois. The Dwight Public Library (top right) was designed by R.G. Hoen of Joliet, and its doors were opened on January 31st, 1927. By 1967, the original 1,679 books had grown to nearly 10,000, an amount the small library wasn’t designed to hold. The first building was demolished and its replacement was designed by architect Robert J. Freund. But by 1988, the second building was also overpopulated. The search for a new location began.
The Library Board’s decision was to accept an offering by the John R. Oughton Estate of the Carriage House. The Carriage House was built around 1895 and has served in a number of interesting capacities ever since. Originally used to shelter the Oughton Estate’s prize horses and cattle, it next served the Keeley Institute as a recreation center, and later was used by The Manse Restaurant – now called the Country Mansion Restaurant – as a banquet hall. Adjacent to the Mansion and Carriage House is Dwight’s most prominent landmark, The Windmill, built in 1896 to supply the Oughton Estate with water. It is currently owned by the Village of Dwight. The Mansion, Carriage House, and Windmill are all on the National Register of Historic Places.
Remodeling of the Carriage House’s main floor for use as the new library began in 1990. Heading the renovation was Leslie H. Kenyon of Peoria. When the doors were opened to the public in 1991, it offered 12,000 books to its patrons. That same year, the Library Board petitioned to have the Dwight Public Library convert to a Library District, which would give it a larger territory and, thus, a larger tax base. The initiative was successful, and the Prairie Creek Public Library District was created. The increased tax base allows the library to offer its patrons improved materials and services.
During the mid-90s, money was raised to renovate the 3,000 square foot second floor, originally a hayloft. Construction began in the fall of 2000 by Fox River Lumber of Ottawa using designs by Gary L. Olsen of Champaign. When work was completed in May of 2002, the library’s second floor was able to offer a dedicated children’s department at the North end and a Community Meeting Room at its South. With an elevator between the two floors, the library remains fully ADA compliant.
PCPL now caters to over 6,600 north-central Illinois residents. A plethora of modern day media — books, magazines, newspapers, books-on-tape and CD, music CDs, movies on VHS and DVD — make up the library’s 30,000+ volumes.