Lewistown's first library opened in 1897 with 269 books in a corner of Mary Hanson's millinery shop. When Mrs. Hanson left town two years later, the collection moved to the office of Elizabeth Peeples, county superintendent of schools. In 1905 Lewistown received a $10,000 grant from industrialist and library patron Andrew Carnegie for this sandstone building, constructed by Lewistown's famed Croatian stonemasons. Carnegie, who funded over 1,600 libraries nationwide and 17 in Montana, encouraged communities to erect modest buildings, but Lewistown wanted a symbol of civic pride. Contractor T. J. Tubb designed and oversaw the library's construction. Praised as a "public benefactor," Tubb lost money on the project, adding many embellishments at his own expense. Despite Tubb's generosity, the building cost more than Lewistown could afford and the city found itself without funds to install a heating plant, electrical fixtures, and furniture or hire staff. Begun in 1905, the building finally opened to the public in 1908. Notwithstanding this rocky start, the library grew and flourished, becoming the civic monument and "temple of learning" its founders had envisioned.