The structure was built to replace Goodnow Hall, and it was one of the few college libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie, who was principally interested in supporting community libraries. The architect for the Grinnell library was H.D. Rawson of Des Moines. Originally the building had two large reading rooms on the ground floor and an imposing staircase for access to an upper-floor reading room, with stacks at the rear of the building. Carnegie was considered outgrown by the 1950s, and in 1959 the books were moved to the handsome new Burling Library.
Carnegie Hall, 1210 Park Street, is located north of Herrick Chapel. Dedicated June 13, 1905, the building is in modified Classical form with a low hipped roof, impressive cornice with dentils, red-brick walls, and quoins outlining window areas. The middle section of the facade is framed by two imposing pilasters with six engaged columns within the frame, the pilasters and columns all topped with Ionic capitals. A frieze surmounting the walls bears the names of some of the greats of Western civilization: Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, Plato, Michelangelo, Darwin, Goethe, Galileo, Emerson, and Caesar.
Carnegie Hall today houses classrooms and offices for Humanities faculty. At the rear of the building is the College Book Store, which was added in 1970.