About 100 Years/100 Stories

Dear Readers:

We’ve come a long way. One-hundred years ago, Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL) expanded from a single building to a network of neighborhood libraries, improving access to books and resources for Saint Paul residents. This year we celebrate the centennial of four of those early buildings: Arlington Hills, which is now Eastside Freedom Library, George Latimer Central, Riverview, and Saint Anthony.

100 Years/100 Stories is an expanding collection of stories from our community, as told through written word, photography, audio, and video. They are all unique, and yet they share a similar thread of living and learning in Saint Paul. We are proud to have been a gathering place for Saint Paul residents for 100 years and look forward to serving the city for 100 more.

Learn more and tell us your story at sppl.org/100

User Agreement/Privacy Statement

By contributing to the 100 Years/100 Stories Digital Scrapbook site, you grant Saint Paul Public Library the right to make your contribution publically available, to copy it for preservation, and to distribute it for non-commercial purposes. Saint Paul Public Library is under no obligation to post a story or photo that may violate federal law or Library policies. The copyright and any related rights to stories or photos contributed to the site are the sole responsibility of the contributors.

Contact

We welcome your questions and comments. Please feel free to contact Phoebe Larson, Communications and Digital Services Director, at phoebe.larson@ci.stpaul.mn.us or 651-266-7029. You may also contact us at sppl.cds@gmail.com.


Centennial Libraries: A Brief History

SPPL Digital Scrapbook | Arlington Library

Arlington Hills

From 1905 to 1917 the Arlington Hills neighborhood was served by a “library station” located in Bodin’s Drug Store. In 1917, a permanent structure was opened, funded by Andrew Carnegie and designed by city architect Charles Hausler. Built in the Beaux-Arts style, the building is graced with classical columns and sculptural details.

This neighborhood has historically been home to Saint Paul’s newest residents. More than 100 years of library services have continually evolved to serve immigrants of Swedish, Irish, Italian, Mexican, Hmong, Latino, and African origins.

Arlington Hills Library was modernized in 1958 and renovated in 1987 and 1997.

In 2014, public library services moved to Arlington Hills Community Center. The Carnegie library building became home to East Side Freedom Library, dedicated to the work and residential history of the East Side.

SPPL Digital Scrapbook | Riverview Library

Riverview

Riverview Library serves Saint Paul’s West Side which is bordered by the Mississippi River on the north, east, and west and the city’s boundary along Annapolis Street to the south. Andrew Carnegie provided funding for the building. It was designed by city architect Charles Hausler and is noted for its tall Palladium-arch windows that line all four sides of the building.

Riverview Library has been considered a neighborhood anchor since it opened in 1917 and was strongly defended against possible closing in the 1980s. The building, remodeled in 1989, is a comfortable space which attracts a cross section of the neighborhood, both longtime residents and new arrivals.

SPPL Digital Scrapbook | Riverview Library

Saint Anthony Park

Saint Anthony Park Library is considered an icon of this picturesque neighborhood in northwestern Saint Paul. A park-like lawn with many benches invites patrons to linger with a book. This 1917 Carnegie library was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. An award-winning 1999 renovation added a rotunda to the rear of the building which includes an expanded children’s services area. This inviting space, combined with a juvenile collection that is well funded through a private grant, make it a “destination library” for young families, teachers, and school visits.

The library has an active Library Association which has served the community since 1934. The annual Arts Festival, held the first Saturday in June, is its major fundraiser. Funds from this festival are used to underwrite additional summer youth programming.

SPPL Digital Scrapbook | George Latimer Central Library

George Latimer Central Library

On September 7, 1882, the City Council established the Saint Paul Public Library with a collection of 8,051 books.

In 1900, the library moved to the old Market Hall, located on 7th Street. Many civic leaders pushed for the construction of a new building, but the library remained in Market Hall until a fire destroyed ¾ of the building including the library and its collection of 158,000 books in 1915.

Planning for the new Central Library occurred well before the 1915 fire. In 1910, leaders determined the future library’s site on Rice Park. Railroad baron James J. Hill offered to contribute funds to a reference library attached to the public library, and additional monies were raised through a subscription campaign, a bequest from Greenleaf Clark, and the sale of bonds. The ground for Central Library was finally broken in 1914. The entire building, including the Hill Reference Library, was completed in 1917 at a cost of approximately $1.5 million.

Electus Litchfield was the architect of Central Library. Litchfield studied architecture with the New York firm of Carrere and Hastings, designers of the renowned New York Public Library. Litchfield’s design for Saint Paul’s Central Library was heavily influenced by the design for the J. P. Morgan Library in New York.

Central Library was designed in the Italian Renaissance Revival style. Some features marking the style include round-arched windows, Palladian style entrances, large stonework, a balustrade, which surrounds the building, rondel features near the arched windows, the use of classical columns and pilasters, and the cornice, which caps the structure. The style was continued throughout the interior of the library.

The exterior of the library is of Tennessee marble, while the interior is finished in gray Mankato stone. Blue Rutland and golden vein Formosa marble are also used in select areas.

In 2014, Central Library was renamed the George Latimer Central Library, in honor of George Latimer, a former mayor of Saint Paul.

SPPL Digital Scrapbook | Bookmobile

Bookmobile

Bookmobile services in Saint Paul date back to 1917, when books were brought to playgrounds throughout the city. Since that time, SPPL has owned six Bookmobiles.

The Bookmobile ensures the mission, services, and collections of the Library are known by and accessible to communities that face barriers in using the Library’s fixed facilities. The Bookmobile visits 45 to 50 sites on a regular basis in a two-week cycle.