Virginia Carnegie Library, Chestnut Street West and 9th Avenue, Virginia, Minnesota (Razed)

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Virginia Public Library

Virginia, Minnesota
Saint Louis County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1907
Year razed: 1953: razed for the expansion of the Water and Light Department building
Primary Style: Classical Revival
Historic Function: Library
Historic Function: Canadian Northern Railway freight office, Young Women's Christian Association office, Red Cross relief office, Casagrande Wine House
Architect or source of design: Whitfield and King of New York
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Stucco
First Owner: City of Virginia
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $10,000

Only served as a Library until 1912

Virginia Saint Louis

Virginia Carnegie Library, Chestnut Street West and 9th Avenue, Virginia, Minnesota (Razed)
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The Virginia Public Library was 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 December 20, 1904 the city of Virginia secured $10,000 from Carnegie to construct the Virginia Public Library. Building plans were said to be prepared by the New York architectural firm Whitfield and King. Henry D. Whitfield - of the Whitfield and King partnership - also happened to be Andrew Carnegie's brother-in-law; he was Harvard educated and designed many Carnegie library buildings during his career including the Thirty-sixth Street Branch Library in Minneapolis (1916). The Virginia Public Library was officially opened on May 15, 1907. The first librarian to serve in the Carnegie building was Miss M. E. Dunigan and the library board agreed to pay her expenses while she trained at a summer school in Minneapolis.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Virginia 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. A site was located at the western end of Chestnut Street and purchased with donations made by local residents and businesses. [1]

An interesting story surrounds the life of Virginia's Carnegie library. It served as the public library for only five years until a new library was constructed on a different site in 1912. The reason behind the short lived use of the Carnegie building as a library was said to be caused by two main factors: the need to expand after only a few years and a consequent rift between the Virginia Library Board and the Carnegie Corporation. In fact tensions arose between the two entities during the building of the 1907 Carnegie library; apparently the New York based architects Whitfield and King were not happy that other architects were asked to submit proposals for the library. This was followed with plans and maps being lost in a train wreck and bickering about the quality of workmanship. By 1911 the original building was too small and the Library Board again approached the Carnegie Corporation for funding. However, after constant quarrelling over cost and plans, the City Council advised the Library Board to discontinue discussions with Carnegie and instead work with the City. [1]

The second library was built at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street South and formally opened in January 1913. The Carnegie library building was sold to the Canadian National Railway and used as a freight office. It was then shifted slightly to the south of the lot when a new depot building was constructed on the library site. Over the years the library was used by the Red Cross, Girl Scouts, and even housed the Casagrande's Wine House. Eventually Virginia’s Carnegie library building was demolished to make way for the expansion of the Water and Light Department.

Building Description

The Virginia Public Library was a simple one storey Classical Revival style building with a raised basement. The building had a hipped roof with a projecting gable over the front entrance. The overhanging eaves were supported by brackets that encircled the building. The exterior was likely faced with brick and a separate material differentiated the basement. The main façade was symmetrical and consisted of five bays with a projecting central entrance. The entry way had a broken pediment supported by square pillars and a name plate on the entablature above the door. Decorative features include the arched doorway and window openings trimmed with stone.[1]

Memories and stories


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