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The Willmar Public Library was one of 65 public libraries built in Minnesota with funds from Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Between 1899 and 1917, Carnegie, who was a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, contributed close to $1 million towards library construction in Minnesota. This made Minnesota the eighth largest recipient of the Carnegie Library grants in the entire United States. On January 13th, 1903, the city of Willmar secured $11,000 from Carnegie to build the Willmar Public Library. Construction began immediately and on February 26th, 1904, the Willmar Public Library opened to the public. A benefit supper was held at the Bonde Hall the night of the opening and the public was able to visit the new building. The proceeds from that supper went towards buying books for the new library. Miss Edith Frost was the first librarian. The library was a one story Classical Revival style building with a raised basement defined by a smooth stone water table. The external face of the building was brick and trimmed with stone. At the time of construction, the building had a flat roof, but a central dome was later added in 1912. Because the building was situated on a prominent corner section, the design was angled to accentuate the site and view from the street front. The main façade consisted of a central entrance flanked by three bays to the left and two bays on the right. Classical architectural features included two non-fluted ionic columns supporting a broken pediment, a semi-circular keystoned archway surrounding the door, and ionic pilasters flanking the windows. Along with the dome, further ornamentation added later included a new entrance that was constructed in 1929. In 1958, the Willmar Public Library merged with the Kandiyohi County Library and the Carnegie building continued to support city and county services. However, the merger of the two libraries meant more space was required and a new facility was constructed in 1966 to accommodate the County-City Library. Willmar’s Carnegie library was demolished in 1967 to make way for a parking lot. Today, only 48 of those original Carnegie libraries still remain, and 22 are still being used as libraries.

 

Willmar Public Library

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