he great steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated $12,000 in 1906 towards the construction of the building to be used as a library for the area. The Oxnard structure is one of 1,678 built throughout the United States and funded by the industrialist between 1881 and 1920. Other money was raised by local businessmen to help furnish the books for the collection. Its Neo-Classical (1900-1920) architecture and grand scale preserves the prevailing taste for classical forms during the first decades of the twentieth century. Its strict Greek Temple facade in the Doric Order with interior Ionic columns are graphic documents of a young western town's striving for recognition. Its Greek architecture was in fact the choice of Oxnard's first mayor, Richard Haydock. It was designed by Los Angeles Architect, Franklin Burnham.
Its Greek facade and porticoes remain unique amid the many old and new Spanish Mission style buildings of Ventura County. Even at the time of its construction the Carnegie was fortunate to be built in the striking Neo-Classical mode. Apparently competition for classical building decor was fierce after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and Andrew Carnegie was becoming adverse to building "Greek temples" for libraries. It is one of the oldest buildings in Ventura County and was designated a county landmark in 1971. It is enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places.
The lower level of the building served as Oxnard's City Hall from the opening of the library in 1907 until 1949. The building has been modified several times and in 1923 a sizable three story addition was made on the east side of the edifice. With the completion of a new modern library in 1963, the Carnegie building ceased to function as a library and served as quarters for the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and the Art Club of Oxnard.
In 1978 federal funds were obtained to remodel and refurbish the building. The striking architecture of the building has remained essentially untouched throughout the building's history. The original columns, topped by Ionic capitals, still surround the domed entry. The chandelier in the entry, added during the renovation, dates from the same period as the original portion of the building. In 1980, at the conclusion of the remodeling, the building reopened as the Carnegie Cultural Arts Center, housing the Art Club of Oxnard, the Oxnard Historical Society Museum and the audiovisual portion of the Oxnard Public Library. Since then, the Cultural Arts Center by a City of Oxnard Resolution in 1986 has been transformed into the Carnegie Art Museum, owned and operated by the City of Oxnard.