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Carnegie library spotlights Civil War Room | TribLIVE.com
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Carnegie library spotlights Civil War Room

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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Docent Martin Neaman stands in the Carnegie Library Civil War Room at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Docent Martin Neaman provides information on the artifacts and artworks in the Carnegie Library Civil War Room at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Enjoying the tour are Jenn Hershberger, Jack Holt, 8, and Jack Merckle, of Crafton.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Docent Martin Neaman looks over a catalogue of artifacts in the Carnegie Library Civil War Room at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Docent Martin Neaman provides information on the artifacts and artworks in the Carnegie Library Civil War Room at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Enjoying the tour are Jenn Hershberger, Jack Holt, 8, and Jack Merckle, of Crafton.
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Keith Hodan | Trib Total Media
Docent Martin Neaman provides information on a Civil War era coin in the Carnegie Library Civil War Room at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library in Carnegie, Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015. Enjoying the tour are Jenn Hershberger, Jack Holt, 8, hiding behind Jenn, and Jack Merckle, of Crafton.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Bernadette Kazmarski, freelance commercial artist hangs portraits of Abraham Lincoln in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library's newly named Lincoln Gallery – previously the Reception Hall, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The Lincoln Gallery opens on President’s Day, February 16, 2015.
siglincolnpix02020515
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Bernadette Kazmarski, freelance commercial artist unveils portraits of Abraham Lincoln in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library's newly named Lincoln Gallery – previously the Reception Hall, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The Lincoln Gallery opens on President’s Day, February 16, 2015.
siglincolnpix03020515
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Bernadette Kazmarski, freelance commercial artist unveils portraits of Abraham Lincoln in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library's newly named Lincoln Gallery – previously the Reception Hall, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The Lincoln Gallery opens on President’s Day, February 16, 2015.
siglincolnpix04020515
Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Bernadette Kazmarski, freelance commercial artist unveils portraits of Abraham Lincoln in the Andrew Carnegie Free Library's newly named Lincoln Gallery – previously the Reception Hall, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015. The Lincoln Gallery opens on President’s Day, February 16, 2015.

The Civil War Room of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie is a life-size time capsule for history buffs complete with guns, swords and uniforms.

The treasures will be showcased this year, as the library ramps up Civil War programs leading into the 150th anniversaries of the war’s end and President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

The historic library is home to the Capt. Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic, a chapter of a nationwide organization for Civil War Union veterans.

“No one else in the country has something that intact, and we’re allowed to interact there,” said Martin Neaman, 67, of Banksville, part of a Civil War re-enactment group that calls the library home.

“How many museums do you go to where there’s a rope across the door and you can’t go in? This you can.”

As part of its Civil War exhibit, the library recently acquired 100 rare photographs of Lincoln for an exhibit to open on President’s Day.

On March 7, the library hopes to draw as many as 100 people for a day-long Civil War symposium, “Road to Appomattox,” featuring talks on Lincoln and various battles. And on April 11, the library will be part of a Civil War living history day event.

“The fact that we have this history, we want to maximize our programming,” said library executive director Maggie Forbes. “When you walk in the Espy room, you just feel the history. The programming gives people a reason to come now.”

More than 1,000 visitors came during three months in 2010 when officials displayed the Lincoln photos, then on loan. Officials hope for a similar number this year.

The Espy post “is a very big deal. It essentially became a time capsule with all these artifacts that are very rare,” said Rick Fellers, 69, of Hampton, vice president of the Greater Pittsburgh Civil War Roundtable.

Fellers said at least a dozen members of his group will attend upcoming events at the library.

”Walking in that room, I try to envision how the meetings were conducted and get a sense of their values,” he said, adding the GAR was an influential social and political organization.

Civil War veterans from the Espy post approached the library in 1906, five years after it opened, seeking a permanent meeting room. The post was chartered in 1879 and named for an Army officer from Upper St. Clair who was wounded and died as a prisoner of war in 1862.

Library officials provided a room on the second floor. When the post’s last member died in 1937, library staff locked the door and the room was untouched for 50 years.

Officials rediscovered the room in the late 1980s, but it wasn’t until 2009 that $150,000 was raised for a restoration. Moisture and mold had damaged the room.

Michael Kraus, curator and historian of Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland, was involved in reopening the post.

“It was a mismanaged, locked-up room,” he said, adding he volunteered to help promote awareness and preserve the artifacts.

Now, “It’s been handed to the right people,” he said. “It’s a must-see for people doing Civil War tours. You can feel those guys in there. It looks like they just walked out.”

Found inside the room were meticulous post records that refer to 176 Civil War artifacts collected by veterans and carefully cataloged.

The commander’s gavel, for example, contains wood with a bullet embedded at Devil’s Den on the Gettysburg battlefield. The handle was made with wood from Spangler’s Spring, another Gettysburg site.

Even spittoons used during meetings remain on the floor.

“Each artifact has a story,” said Diane Klinefelter, library director and Espy Post curator. “The Grand Army of the Republic was like the VFW. In its heyday, the GAR had 7,000 posts and a half-million members, but this is the last known fully-restored, fully intact GAR post that’s never been used for anything else.”

Neaman is among volunteers who work as docents for the museum on Saturdays. He wears a full GAR uniform as he greets visitors.

“I have a love of history, and this room, the way it was opened 50 years later, is like magic,” he said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or [email protected].

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