Mankato Public Library and Reading Room, 120 Broad Road South, Mankato, Minnesota

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Mankato Public Library and Reading Room

Mankato Public Library and Reading Room, 2009. Photo credit: Bobak Ha'Eri
Address: 120 Broad Road S
Mankato, Minnesota
Blue Earth County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1902-1903
Primary Style: Renaissance Revival
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Art Center - Carnegie Art Center
Architect or source of design: Jardine, Kent and Jardine
Builder: J.B Nelsen and Company
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
First Owner: City of Mankato
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $40,000

Mankato Blue Earth

Mankato Public Library and Reading Room, 120 Broad Road South, Mankato, Minnesota
(44.165811° N, 94.001032° WLatitude: 44°9′56.92″N
Longitude: 94°0′3.715″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Certification date: July 28, 1980
Level of significance: Local

The Mankato Public Library and Reading Room, now known as the Carnegie Art Center 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 6, 1901 the city of Mankato secured $40,000 from Carnegie to build the Mankato Public Library and Reading Room. Carnegie’s representative, James Bertram arranged for plans to be drawn up by the New York architectural firm of Jardine, Kent, and Jardine. This decision was met with protest by the Western League of Architects who advocated for a local architect, however, Carnegie's plans were eventually accepted. The local contracting firm of J.B. Nelson and Company was hired to build the library, and the stone, cement, lime and brick were all locally produced. The Mankato Public Library and Reading Room was completed in 1902.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Mankato 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 Mankato Public Library and Reading Room ceased being used as a library in the mid-1970s when a new regional library facility was constructed. It now has a new lease of life and serves as the Carnegie Art Centre - a community-based, nonprofit arts organization established in 1979. The Carnegie Art Center purchased the library building in 1981; with the help of many dedicated volunteers and support from the community they have worked to make the historic Carnegie building a successful venue for the arts.

For fans of author Maud Hart Lovelace, the Mankato Public Library and Reading Room is said to be the Carnegie Library she refers to in her Betsy-Tacy books.[1]

Building Description

The Mankato Public Library and Reading Room is a one storey brick building that sits on a raised basement of rusticated limestone with a smooth stone water table. The Renaissance Revival style of the library is evident in the strong horizontal design of the building, and emphasised with a wide cornice, low brick parapet and symmetrical repeating arched windows. Also, a large semi-circular wing is located at the rear of the building. The main portion of the building is a flat-roofed rectangle with a central projecting entrance. An ornamental use of brick is visible in the relief banding on the entrance and quoining on the corners of the building. The central projecting entrance porch has an arched opening, decorative cartouche, and carved stone panel that reads 'Public Library and Reading Room'. Mankato stone was used exclusively in the construction of the library.[1]

Unique features of the Mankato Public Library and Reading Room were the rotunda for the stacks (book shelves) and the budget set aside for interior paint decoration. Artist Odin J. Oyin, a Norwegian immigrant who had trained in Chicago and established himself in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, was commissioned to carry out the paintings. Odin and his team worked for five to six weeks and painted a series of angels, authors' names and astrological signs around the skylight of the rotunda and above the check-out desk. Oyen also completed a mural in the front reading and children’s rooms. Unfortunately over time the murals deteriorated and were eventually painted over.[1]

Significant restoration work and upgrades have allowed the continued use of this building and include cleaning the exterior, code compliance, electrical re-wiring, re-plumbing and re-roofing.

Memories and stories


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

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Related Links

Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. The Oyen Collection catalog


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