2021 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation AWARD FOR ADAPTIVE REUSE

Former Aledo residents Crista and William J. Albertson creatively renovated and reused the more than 100-year-old Carnegie Library in Mercer County as a co-working facility for technology education, recruiting and employment. The library, built in 1915-16 thanks to a donation from renowned industrialist Andrew Carnegie, closed in 2019 and the Albertson family bought and began renovations in March 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic. Contractors and laborers, considered “essential workers” during the pandemic, were able to continue working at the historic building, providing stable jobs and economic activity at local restaurants and other businesses in the area. The new coworking space and tech center run by the organization High-Tech Small Town opened to the public in the restored library in May 2021. High-Tech Small Town is also working with area school districts to build a future pipeline of rural tech industry talent.

In a diverse juxtaposition of old and new, the former library building will now serve the ecommerce industry that has been thriving in Aledo and surrounding areas. The library is located in the National-Register listed Downtown Aledo Historic District, and designation of the building opened opportunities for funding assistance, including use of Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. The project is the first in the Downtown Aledo Historic District to use these vital tax incentives for rehabilitation of a historic building.

The Albertson family’s goal was to develop a reuse plan to save an irreplaceable community landmark while bringing modern technology and needed services to their hometown. This adaptive reuse serves as a model for future economic development projects in the Downtown Aledo Historic District.


  • William & Crista Albertson, owner, Perryton, LLC
  • Beisser Lumber Company
  • Black Tie Flooring Services
  • A.J. Loss, President, Bush Construction, General Contractor
  • Doherty Brothers Roofing and Home Improvement
  • Lou Powell, High-Tech Small Town
  • Jason Kellett, Landmark Landscaping Services LLC
  • Lane Hill Design
  • Kenzi Lafferty, Lead For America Hometown Fellow
  • Long’s Carpet
  • Carl Cole, Otto Baum Company, Inc.
  • Prime Construction Services
  • Riddell Roofing
  • Rock River Electric
  • Ryan & Associates
  • Schebler Heating & Air
  • Twin State Technical Services
  • Christopher Hagloch, Mayor of Aledo


William Albertson

Crista and I grew up in Aledo using the library during the 1980s when computer technology was just being introduced into a library environment. Our young children were later involved in programs at the library, and I ran a local insurance business in town. These connections to the library and the community as well as the deteriorated state of this once vibrant downtown motivated my family to take action and lead this initiative.

The cultural and architectural significance of the library were also driving forces for the rehabilitation. Andrew’s Carnegie’s grants (given to Aledo and other small towns to built libraries) were large for the era when the library was built. The architecture of a Carnegie library was typically simple and formal, welcoming patrons to enter through a prominent doorway. The entry staircase symbolized a person’s elevation by learning. Similarly, most libraries had a lamppost or lantern installed near the entrance, meant as a symbol of enlightenment. This Free Public Library system helped to elevate a community that would not otherwise have had many available tools for education.

My family found in this project an opportunity to save an irreplaceable landmark building while giving it a new purpose and giving back to our community in a way that may be used as a model for future local economic development projects.


William Albertson

From the moment the renovation began, the people of Aledo have been so glad that the original library isn’t going to crumble in vacancy or be demolished. Not only does the building have a physical presence in town but also a place in the hearts of the current generations living or visiting Mercer County. The books and educational programs that were held in this facility have made an impact on so many lives for the last 105 years, so it is fitting that the building continues to serve the community. This building is a part of Mercer County history, that now has a new future in Aledo.

Renovations on the library began in March 2020 just as the country was in the beginnings of a global pandemic. Since laborers were essential workers, progress on the rehabilitation continued, bringing the town hope as the rest of the country came to a halt. Local food establishments, subcontractors and other services benefited from the workers at the job site.

Although the facility just opened its doors in May of 2021, groundwork for economic development opportunities had begun over a year before. With over a year of planning, one corporation has hired three college graduate full-time employees and is interviewing more to be placed in the library’s Tech Center. Area high school students have already begun signing up for a college dual enrollment Tech Certificate introduced by High-Tech Small Town. The coursework will involve students meeting at the new library’s tech center to learn more about careers as technologists. College students also served as interns at the tech center this summer.  The combination of sentimental value of the library’s continued presence, the restoration itself and the programs inside the updated building will have a lasting impact on the city of Aledo.

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