Thief River Falls Public Library, 102 Main Avenue North, Thief River Falls, Minnesota

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Thief River Falls Public Library

Address: 102 Main Avenue N
Thief River Falls, Minnesota
Pennington County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1914-1915
Primary Style: Renaissance Revival
Major Alterations: Some/mostly intact
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Vacant - under renovation
Architect or source of design: Joseph C. Lutz
Builder: Northern Construction Company
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
Material of Roof: Asphalt Shingles
Material of Foundation: Concrete
First Owner: City of Thief River Falls
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $12,500

Thief River Falls Pennington

Thief River Falls Public Library, 102 Main Avenue North, Thief River Falls, Minnesota
(48.1171191° N, 96.1816854° WLatitude: 48°7′1.629″N
Longitude: 96°10′54.067″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Certification date: October 6, 1983

The Thief River 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 January 31, 1914 the city of Thief River Falls secured $12,500 from Carnegie to build the Thief River Falls Public Library. Plans were prepared by local architect Joseph C. Lutz and the Northern Construction Company - with Isak Helseth as supervisor - won the bid. The plumbing was done by Holt and George, with the heating system by Ed A. Lee. All the millwork was done by the Thief River Falls Manufacturing Company. Construction of the library began in 1914 and in May 1915 the Thief River Falls Public Library was opened to the public. [1]

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Thief River 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 Thief River Falls Carnegie building served as the public library until 1966 when the library moved into a new facility across the street from the Carnegie library. A number of organizations leased the Carnegie library building until it became vacant approximately six years ago. However, plans are underway to stabilise and renovate the Carnegie building which has sustained weather damage over the years. The restoration project is part of an initiative to revitalize the downtown area of Thief River Falls and secure an important piece of the city's historic fabric. The Fargo, North Dakota-based firm Michael J. Burns Architects are responsible for overseeing the design.[1]

Building Description

The (former) Thief River Falls Public Library is as a one storey Renaissance Revival style building with a raised stone basement and a concrete foundation. The building is faced with Twin City tapestry brick and trimmed with Bedford stone. The structure has a hipped roof with a small gabled section over the entrance that is fronted with a brick parapet. The roof was originally covered with Toncon metal shingles which were painted to give the effect of tiles. [1]

The main facade is symmetrical and consists of five bay with a central projecting entrance. Bedford stone is used for sills and keystones and the entire structure is encircled by a modillioned cornice. The doorway is decorated with a stone surround and a name plate that reads:'Carnegie Library'.

In 1931, a children's room was set up in the main portion of the library. In 1941, a new roof of corrugated steel was added and the skylight boarded over because it leaked onto the circulation desk beneath it.

Although the Carnegie library is not used at present since the foundation and floor need replacing, the Carnegie Library Renovation Board is involved in the building's renovation. The first phase of this project is drying out the basement by tiling the foundation. Other projects are to refurbish the main level's hardwood floors, replace the skylight covered up before 1960, and renovate fireplace. The roof will also need to be replaced or renovated. [1]

Memories and stories


Don Stewart, Project Manager for the restoration of Thief River Falls Carnegie Library explains why the library is so important: "Thief River Falls was developed as a lumber town. And in terms of commercial buildings of historic architectural integrity, we really only have two, because most of the others were wood frame and were destroyed by fire or have been torn down."[1] The other building is the Soo Line Depot that was restored in the 1990s and now functions as the City Hall.


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