Franklin Branch Library, 1314 Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Franklin Branch Library

Franklin Branch Library, 1914
Franklin Branch Library
Address: 1314 Franklin Avenue E
Neighborhood/s: Ventura Village, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1913-1914
Primary Style: Renaissance Revival
Additions: 1937: rear addition by architects Johnson and Backstrom to expand main floor's northern reading room and provide office and storage space.

2004: addition built to provide office space for librarians.

Major Alterations: Altered
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Library
Architect or source of design: Edward L. Tilton
Builder: J and W.A. Elliott
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Roof: Asphalt Shingles
Notes: Carnegie Grant: part of the $125,000 granted to the City of Minneapolis for 4 Carnegie Libraries.

Original roof material: Ceramic Tile

Ventura Village Minneapolis Hennepin

Franklin Branch Library, 1314 Franklin Avenue East, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.9629307° N, 93.2558568° WLatitude: 44°57′46.551″N
Longitude: 93°15′21.084″W

The Franklin Branch 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 April 03, 1912 the City of Minneapolis secured $125,000 from Carnegie to build four branch libraries for the Minneapolis Public Library system. The funding success has been attributed to the application made by Gratia Countryman who served as head librarian of the Minneapolis Public Library from 1904 to 1936. Prior to 1912, Minneapolis had made two previous requests to Carnegie in 1902 and 1909 but both requests had been denied. Countryman has been celebrated for her vision and direction in the development of Minnesota's public libraries, and as a leader in the library world. While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the City of Minneapolis 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. An inscription within the library foyer acknowledges this process and reads: 'The land on which this building stands was given to the people of Minneapolis by Mrs Harriet McKnight Crosby, Mrs Caroline McKnight Christian, Mr Sumner T McKnight. The building is a gift of Mr. Andrew Carnegie. A.D. 1914'.

Construction of the Franklin Branch Library cost $40,000 and took just over a year to build (June 1913 - July 1914). Plans were prepared by New York architect Edward L. Tilton who designed the library in the Renaissance Revival style and it was built by Minneapolis contractor J. and W.A Elliott. Located at 1314 Franklin Avenue East, the library replaced a rented building two blocks away that had previously housed the Franklin Branch Library. Both buildings served South Minneapolis' large Scandinavian community and featured a considerable collection of Scandinavian books, magazines, and newspapers. The first librarian in charge of the Scandinavian collection was Emma B. Nilsson, who had emigrated from Sweden in 1885. The Scandinavian collection was housed on the upper floor of the library along with a general reading room. The lower floor contained a neighborhood clubroom and a children’s library, which held story hours. Two porches provided places to read during the summer, while two large fireplaces offered warmth during the winter.

Current Library Resources

Located in the Ventura Village region of Philips, Franklin Library serves one of Minneapolis' most diverse neighborhoods. Franklin Library's world language collection focuses on materials in Somali and Spanish and also features a large American Indian collection with materials in Ojibwe. The library houses the Franklin Learning Center, which offers adult learning programs, the Philips Technology Center with forty-one computer work stations, and an after school homework help program.

Building Description

The Franklin Branch Library is a one storey Renaissance Revival style building with a raised basement defined by an ornate terra cotta water table. The exterior is faced with textured light brown brick and is adorned with cream-coloured terra cotta trim. The building has a truncated-hipped roof and was originally covered with ceramic tiles; these have subsequently been replaced with asphalt shingles. The central projecting entrance has an arched opening with the doorway positioned within an ornate rounded arch. Within the arch are the words 'Minneapolis Public Librar' which are cast into the terracotta entablature. Large rounded-arched windows are placed directly above square basement level windows and both are trimmed with terra cotta surrounds.

Interior features that remain from the time of construction include the fireplaces on the main floor, small window seats on the north side, and original woodwork such as the wall-mounted bookshelves. An addition in 1937 was built to the rear of the library to provide extra space for the reading room as well as office and storage space. This addition also had a truncated hipped-roof and was designed by the Minneapolis architectural firm Johnson and Backstrom.

Recent Renovations

In 2003, Franklin Library closed for a 3.8 million dollar renovation project designed by Meyer, Scherer and Rockcastle Architects. The renovations created a more open entryway and uncovered the building's original skylights, which had been plastered over in 1979 when the building had last been renovated. A colorful, central pavilion was built to house the children’s collection and a storage room was converted into a storytime room. A new addition was built to add office space for the building's librarians. In the building’s lower level, the learning center was improved and received new computers. The library reopened May 7, 2005. In the interim, the library was housed at the Catholic Charities Building on Franklin Avenue. When funding for the interim building was dropped from the library budget, library patrons formed the Friends of Franklin Library to raise the money needed to keep the library open and succeeded with donations from Thrivent Financial Corp, the Frey Foundation, Catholic Charities, the city's empowerment zone and the Neighborhood Revitalization Programs of several neighborhoods.

Memories and stories


Dora Rosen was born on Franklin Avenue. In 1993, she was 80 years old and a volunteer adult education tutor at Franklin Library. In a Star Tribune article, she shared her memories of the library:

"I remember coming here when I was little. This was the children's room, and the fireplace over there was the focal point. We were all poor little immigrant kids, and we would sit on the floor in front of the fireplace and listen as the librarian read us stories. I learned to read here. I learned to love to read.”
From “The library revels in the sound of people learning to read.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 9, 1993, page 1B, by Chuck Haga.


Huessein Samatar frequented the Franklin Library since his family emigrated from Somalia in 1994. In 2005, he was appointed to the Minneapolis Library Board. Speaking at the opening of the Franklin Library’s interim building, Samatar said of the library:
"It has been our window to the United States of America. It’s our safe haven, and our source of many, many resources. We methodically, religiously, go to Franklin Library every week. It's part of our family. It should be part of each and every family."
From “A new advocate for city libraries," Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 10, 2005, page 24A.


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Related Links

Franklin Library Website


1. City of Minneapolis Historic Preservation Commission. “Franklin Branch Library.” City of Minneapolis.[1]
2. “Franklin Library- 10 Months Funded, 8 to Go.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, October 24, 2003, page 12A.
3. Hennepin County Library, “Franklin Library."[2]
4. Hughes, Art. “The Oldest Library in Minneapolis Returns to Life.” Minneapolis Public Radio News, May 6, 2005.[3]
5. Library Site Given by McKnight Family." Minneapolis Morning Tribune (1909-1922), May 22, 1913.
6. Minnesota Historical Society. “Recent Additions to the National Register of Historic Places.” Minnesota Preservation Planner. Vol. XII (Winter 2001): 2.[4]
7. “Minneapolis Real Estate." Minneapolis Morning Tribune (1909-1922), November 1, 1914.
Much of the information provided in this entry is from the Franklin Branch Library file held at the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
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