Bemidji Public Library, 426 Bemidji Avenue, Bemidji, Minnesota

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Bemidji Public Library

Address: 426 Bemidji Avenue
Bemidji, Minnesota
Beltrami County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1909-1910
Primary Style: Classical Revival
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Arts Center and Council
Architect or source of design: W.D Gillespie
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Roof: Shingle
Material of Foundation: Concrete
First Owner: City of Bemidji
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $12,500

Bemidji Beltrami

Bemidji Public Library, 426 Bemidji Avenue, Bemidji, Minnesota
(47.4736111° N, 94.8802778° WLatitude: 47°28′25″N
Longitude: 94°52′49″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Certification date: November 25, 1980
Level of significance: Local

The Bemidji Public Library is one of 65 public libraries built in Minnesota with funds from Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation. Between 1899 and 1917, Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist contributed close to 1 million dollars towards library construction in Minnesota. This makes Minnesota the eighth largest recipient of Carnegie Library grants in the United States.



On February 10, 1908 the city of Bemidji secured $12,500 (some reports say $15,000) from Carnegie to build the Bemidji Public Library. Plans were prepared by W.D Gillespie of Fargo. Library construction began in 1909 and was opened to the public May 10, 1910.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Bemidji community had to provide a suitable site and were expected to tax themselves at the annual rate of 10% of the grant amount. This requirement imposed by Carnegie ensured a long-term commitment for the purchase of books, staff costs and maintenance of the library building. The site allocated for the library was an area which on March 6, 1896 was plotted as Bemidji from the Bemidji Townsite and Improvement Company; it had been dedicated to the public and was vacant at the time of purchase. The first librarian to work in the Carnegie building was Beatrice Mills.

The Bemidji Public Library served as the community library until 1961. Since 1961 it has been used by various art organizations and has previously functioned as a social welfare office. Bemidji’s Carnegie Library is currently owned by the City of Bemidji and operates as the Bemidji Community Arts Center (BCAC). In 2009 a Bemidji Carnegie Library Reuse Study jointly produced by the City and the Minnesota Historical Society examined future options for building.

Building Description

The Bemidji Public Library is a one storey Classical Revival style building with a raised basement. The rectangular building rests on a concrete foundation and is covered with a low hipped, shingle roof. The library is principally faced with brown brick and highlighted by Bedford limestone on the basement, windows, lintels and tympanum. The symmetrical temple-like design is a common reference to classical architecture. The projecting entrance porch has two free-standing columns supporting a triangular pediment. The emphasis on the entrance space creates a grand opening to the interior of the building and is characteristic of Carnegie Library design.[1]

Memories and stories


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Related Links

Bemidji Community Arts Center - Building History


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