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Neighborhood Notes: Homestead – “Spirits in the Carnegie Library of Homestead”

A dark past remains alive at the Carnegie Library of Homestead. Reports of unexplained noises and ominous figures lead many to believe the building is inhabited by restless spirits. Could the building’s connection to the 1892 Homestead Strike be the cause?library02

The Carnegie Library of Homestead was founded in 1896 to serve a community struggling in the aftermath of a bloody battle. The Homestead Strike in 1892 pitted the steelworkers’ union against the Carnegie Steel Company at the Homestead Steel Works. Plant manager Henry Clay Frick sought to destroy the union. He ordered the development of a tall barbed-wire fence in January of 1892, which the workers called “Fort Frick”. His plan was to lock the workers out and dissolve the union. Carnegie publicly supported labor unions, but backed Frick’s plans.

Frick began locking the workers out on June 28, 1892. The steelworkers retaliated and took control of the mill on June 30. Frick sent for 300 Pinkerton guards to end the strike, but thousands of armed steelworkers and their family members were waiting at the Homestead waterfront. The strike exploded into a battle that left at least 12 dead and wounded many. The firefight and ongoing turmoil in the community led to the arrival of the Pennsylvania state militia. Four thousand militia men were dispatched to the Homestead Steel Works. The plant was surrendered on July 12. It was fully operational with new non-union workers by July 15.

Carnegie regretted his decision to stand with Frick against the workers. To make amends for the destroyed community, he dedicated the Carnegie Library of Homestead to the steelworkers and their families. The building opened in November of 1898 and housed a library, music hall, and athletic club under one roof.

Carnegie’s gift to the steelworkers was very generous, but perceived as an attempt at spiritual redemption. He parted with the majority of his wealth before he died, firmly believing that “the man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” Carnegie did become a great philanthropist, but it wasn’t until after the Homestead Strike that he extended his good fortune to others. It is possible that his change of heart was due to the devastating impact of the strike.

Carnegie may not have been the only soul tortured by what happened in 1892. The Carnegie Library of Homestead is home to countless strange reports, including disembodied voices, flying books, and strange apparitions. Many speculate the ghosts are angry steelworkers, past visitors, and even the tortured spirit of Andrew Carnegie himself.

Carnegie’s ghost is believed to inhabit the adult reading room. Noises and moving books are common occurrences throughout the day. Librarians have reported sudden drops in temperature and the feeling of someone running past them. It’s an ideal haunting location for a man who dedicated most of his fortune to building more than 1,500 libraries.carnegie-library

Another spirit locals have identified is that of Robert E. Peebles around the swimming pool in the athletic club. On November 28, 1899, Peebles drowned in the club’s pool. Newspapers reported Peebles was found dead in eight feet of water under “mysterious circumstances”. Sounds of splashing and cries for help have been heard in the pool area. It’s possible that one swimmer is still struggling for help from beyond the grave.

The music hall is full of activity and distinct supernatural presences. Apparitions, laughter, and disembodied voices have all been reported throughout the hall. A recurring person has been spotted sitting alone in the 1,000 seat auditorium. Photographs taken in the music hall occasionally have unexplained human forms in them. Perhaps past visitors have decided to stay among the ornate decor and entertainment of the old music hall.

The activity within the Carnegie Library of Homestead is genuine, but the source of the activity is not known. Paranormal researchers and countless visitors have explored the building and have had personal experiences, but offer no hard evidence. A first-hand investigation may be the best method of finding a definitive answer, but be prepared to see things you can’t explain.

By:  Meg O’Malley

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