The history of the public library on the shores of Lake Bemidji


For five decades, the Bemidji Public Library functioned in a one-story, brick and stone neoclassical structure designed by Haxby & Gillespie and built in 1909. It is a well-preserved example of libraries in Minnesota and the United States. United. – which were funded by Andrew Carnegie.

The first Bemidji library was installed in the old courthouse in the city. After the construction of a new courthouse in 1902, the library was moved to the lower level of this building. The Bemidji Public Libraries Association was established in 1904.

After three years of fundraising, the Bemidji Public Library was established on February 25, 1907. In 1908, the Chairman of the Bemidji Library Board, AP Ritchie, wrote to Andrew Carnegie to inquire about the possibility of financing a new library building. On March 23, 1908, the city council began a process to evacuate Fifth Street east of Bemidji Avenue to make way for a construction site.

The original library design included porches on either side of the building, overlooking the lake. The board and architects have planned that these porches will be used in the evening, when the sun is shining into the building from the west. Carnegie, however, thought they were unnecessary, and the porches were removed from the plans, lowering the cost of the building to the amount of Mr. Carnegie’s donation of $ 12,500.

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Thomas Johnson of Bemidji was the lowest bidder for the construction project and was awarded the contract for $ 11,300 on August 7, 1909. The building was to be completed on January 1, 1910. Johnson completed the work on time and the building was occupied during the winter and consecrated the following June.

The building is located on the shores of Lake Bemidji in Library Park, on a 50 foot by 60 foot lot in Block B. It is a typical one story, rectangular, brick library structure and stone, neo-classical style. The exterior is brown brick with Bedford limestone trim. It is covered with a low hipped roof and sits on a high basement (five feet above the ground). The basement is the full size of the building.

Inside, a stone staircase led to the circulation desk on the ground floor of the library (in the center of the building, under a low dome) and to two reading rooms; the stacks of books and storage rooms provided storage and work space behind. varnished oak paneling decorated the entire elegant ground floor.

Although the porches designed by the architects were never built, doors were installed on the eastern (lakeside) facade of the library, possibly to allow for the future construction of reading porches. Even though credit was never made for such an addition, it remained feasible.

Work crews completely remodeled the building in 1940. The story of the remodel, complete with imagery, made the pages of the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune. City improvement projects in the 1950s widened Bemidji Avenue in front of the library, increasing traffic and making crossing the street more dangerous.

The building ceased to function as a library on November 28, 1961, when the Bemidji Public Library moved into a larger building. It was recognized as a historic property and entered in the National Register of Historic Places on November 25, 1980. The Beltrami County Protection Board occupied the space for a time, and the Bemidji Arts Council installed a gallery there. art in 1983.

For more information on this topic, see the original entry on MNopedia.


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