Fergus Falls Carnegie Library, 121 Union Street North, Fergus Falls, Minnesota

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Fergus Falls Carnegie Library

Fergus Falls Carnegie Library ca.1911
Address: 125 Union Street N
Fergus Falls, Minnesota
Otter Tail County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1904-1905
Primary Style: Beaux Arts
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Unknown
Architect or source of design: Vernon A. Wright
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Roof: Ceramic Tile
Material of Foundation: Concrete
First Owner: City of Fergus Falls
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $15,000 - initial sum

Total Carnegie Grant: $21,475

Fergus Falls Otter Tail

Fergus Falls Carnegie Library, 121 Union Street North, Fergus Falls, Minnesota
(46.284029° N, 96.078315° WLatitude: 46°17′2.504″N
Longitude: 96°4′41.934″W

The Fergus Falls 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 20, 1904 the city of Fergus Falls secured $15,000 from Carnegie to build the Fergus Falls Carnegie Public Library. It is possible that additional funding was given as some sources state the final amount received was $21,475 [1]. A number of architectural plans were submitted to the Library Board and the decision was made in favor of local Fergus Falls resident Vernon A. Wright. Excavation of the site began in 1904, construction took place in 1905 and the library building was completed and opened to the public on January 24, 1906. Mrs Lillian Stringham who was Librarian of the first Fergus Falls library remained in this role when the new Carnegie library opened.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Fergus Falls 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 Carnegie building no longer serves as the Fergus Falls Public Library. At present it functions as commercial offices and houses various businesses including a dental practice, insurance company and accounts office. Although the original Carnegie building still exists, the cumulative effects of alterations and additions over time has significantly diminished the integrity of the 1904 Carnegie design.

Building Description

The Fergus Falls Carnegie Public Library was adapted to the lie of the land; it was constructed one story high in the front and four stories at the rear. It is Beaux Arts in style with a foundation of granite. The building has a hipped roof covered with red Spanish tile and a chimney at each end. The walls are of light grey Roman brick with Bedford stone trimmings that highlight particular architectural features such as the window surrounds and keystones, detailed quoining around the entirety of the building and the decorative motif above the central entryway. The Fergus Falls Carnegie Public Library has many classical design elements commonly found in Carnegie Library architecture.

The interior walls are also constructed of brick and the floors utilized reinforced concrete. In terms of design, the interior originally had panelled wainscoting of Flemish oak that extended to a height of six feet around the walls and the ceiling was beamed. Furniture chosen for the Carnegie was of the Mission style.[1]

Alterations and additions have substantially changed the building which is now mostly disguised behind a modern façade. At the rear a semi rotunda has been added to match the materials of the original Carnegie building.

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