Anaheim had its own library as early as 1873, three years before the town was incorporated, and in 1907 was granted $10,000 for a Carnegie building. Architect John C. Austin of Los Angeles also designed the Shrine Auditorium and Griffith Park Observatory. To a Classical Revival style he added Mission influence, suggested by the red tile roof over the wide low rectangle of the building, beige and tan brick, shady recessed portico, and adjacent palm trees, conveying the sense of an indigenous adobe building. Contractors were Kuechel and Rowley of Santa Ana. An octagonal promontory at the rear of the building was an early addition.
The Carnegie building served as a library until 1963, then briefly as city offices. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Following extensive renovation it opened as a museum in 1987. Located just a few miles from Disneyland, at the northwest corner of Anaheim Blvd. and Broadway, the Carnegie provides a sense of permanence in an older Anaheim neighborhood infused with a variety of building style