Northfield Public Library, 210 Washington Street, Northfield, Minnesota

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Northfield Carnegie Public Library

Address: 210 Washington Street
Neighborhood/s: Downtown Historic District, Northfield, Minnesota
Northfield, Minnesota
Rice County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1910
Primary Style: Georgian
Additions: 1985: 8,000 square foot addition by Steve Edwins of SMSQ
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Library
Architect or source of design: Bell, Tyrie, and Chapman
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Roof: Asphalt Shingles
Material of Foundation: Concrete
First Owner: City of Northfield
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $10,000

Downtown Historic District Northfield Rice County

Northfield Public Library, 210 Washington Street, Northfield, Minnesota
(44.4583737° N, 93.1586037° WLatitude: 44°27′30.145″N
Longitude: 93°9′30.973″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Certification date: June 11, 1979
Level of significance: Local

The Northfield 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.



Northfield's library had modest beginnings in 1856 as a reading room and circulating library located in a schoolhouse at Third and Union Street. This library was set up by the Lyceum Society, who in the following year, moved it to the Lyceum's new building on East Fourth Street.

In 1878, the library's new sponsor, a Citizens' Reading Room Association, moved the library to the upstairs rooms of the Carleton YMCA, located in the Shatto Store on Mill Square. The library remained there until 1885, when it moved into its new quarters at the new city YMCA (current location of the Northfield Arts Guild), and remained there until 1910.

On January 8, 1908 the city of Northfield secured $10,000 from Carnegie to build the Northfield Public Library. Plans were prepared by the Minneapolis architectural firm of Bell, Tyrie and Chapman. Bell, Tyrie and Chapman also designed the SOO Line depot building (1910) in Duluth, the Fawkes building (1911) in Minneapolis and a number of educational buildings within Minnesota. The Northfield Public Library was opened to the public in 1910.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Northfield 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 is significant as the location of the first building to house Carleton College.

The Northfield Public Library continues to function as a library and is a recognised asset of Northfield. However, the library is now pressed for more space and ideas for expansion or a new building have been considered.

Building Description

The Northfield Public Library is a two storey Georgian Revival style building prominently located on a small hill overlooking Division Street. The structure rests on a concrete foundation and the exterior is faced with brown brick with white classical details. The hipped roof is covered with asphalt shingles. The projecting entrance has a full pediment and is typical of Carnegie library design by being the dominant central feature of the building. The Georgian Revival style is evident in the formal arrangement of architectural elements and symmetry of design. Other features of the Carnegie building include the modillioned cornice and square columns.[1]

A major library expansion was carried out in 1985 which saw an 8,000 square foot addition by Steve Edwins of SMSQ, Northfield. The library today faces similar challenges as in the past. Space is limited not only for materials, but for patrons as well. At present there have been several ideas put forward for expansion or building a new library, however the required funding has not been secured and therefore no outcome has been decided upon.

Memories and stories


The Northfield History Podcasts series was created with a Certified Local Government Grant from the Minnesota Historical Society. The series features a podcast about the history of the Northfield Carnegie Library. This is a production by the Northfield Heritage Preservation Commission and the Northfield Histiorical Soicety. Watch the podcast about Northfield Carnegie Library


65}px This place is part of the
Minnesota Carnegie Libraries Tour

Photo Gallery

Related Links

Northfield Public Library website

History of Carnegie Libraries

Architecture: Carnegie Libraries in Scotland and America

SELCO: Southeastern Libraries Cooperating/Southeastern Library System


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