Save the Carnegie Library in Bemidji Minnesota

Help us preserve this treasured landmark, and restore its role as a vibrant centerpiece fo our community

Please volunteer your time and talents

Please make a tax-deductible contribution to our capital fund

  • Why do we want to preserve this building?
  • The Carnegie Library is a prominent and irreplaceable historic landmark entrusted to our care by Andrew Carnegie as an enduring gift for the pleasure and benefit of the community. It earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places because of its architecture and its historical significance. It is beautiful, and one of the last landmark buildings remaining in Bemidji.

    And the Carnegie Library is more than a building. It is a symbol of a time of culture and elegance, a symbol of our heritage, a symbol of a shared endeavor to provide books and learning to the community. The Library once was a place for all members of the community to gather, debate, listen, and share ideas and enjoyment. This is our chance to save it, for ourselves and for future generations.    (top)
  • What will the building be used for once it is restored?
  • The community strongly desires to use the building in ways that showcase the building's significance, the quality of its construction, and its unique position overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Bemidji. This will be a place for all of us to use and enjoy. We have held several open meetings in order to get community input on the future uses for the building. People have told us that it is important to create a safe, accessible, and inviting space with improvements to also make the building more economically viable and energy efficient.

    The current plans include refurbishing the upper level as a conference and retreat center, used for events from meetings to weddings. It will have open spaces and a lovely view through the trees to the lake. The lower level will have offices or a space for a tenant, with catering facilities and accessible restrooms.

    Future Vision →

    As we restore the interior of the Carnegie, we intend to create an ongoing exhibit of regional Native American history and culture to celebrate this long and rich story, significant to the Ojibwe as well as those who settled here later.

    The exhibit will expand on the life of Shaynowishkung (Chief Bemidji) but also reflect on the pre-contact and post-contact life of the Ojibwe of Red Lake, White Earth, Leech Lake, and Bemidji. Lastly it will document the history of the Carnegie Library itself and its importance to the community.    (top)
  • Why move the building? Why did the city council require this?
  • To restore it to a setting that recreates its original beauty, in the park with a lawn; to prevent further damage from the road and snowplowing; to distance it away from the traffic and noise of the road; and to improve the access to it.

    Moving the building is the right thing to do →

    If you spend any time at all in the library, the road is so intrusive and unpleasant that it destroys all the pleasure of being in the building.    (top)
  • Didn't the city council vote twice to tear down the Carnegie?
  • The City Council did not want to tear down the library. As responsible representatives of the community, they had to balance the desire to preserve it with the realities of the City's finances. When they voted to demolish it, they believed they were out of options. Once the community came back to them with a financially sound alternative, the Council were very pleased to be able to save the building and sponsor the committee to do the necessary fundraising. They continue to give the project extensive support and encouragement.    (top)
  • Are my taxes being spent on saving the library?
  • The entire project is being funded via grants and donations. The only taxpayer money involved is what the City would have had to pay to demolish the building.    (top)
  • If the library is saved, who owns it and what will prevent them from tearing it down in the future?
  • The City of Bemidji owns the Carnegie building. Once the building is restored, we intend to modify the warranty deed to prevent future demolishment.    (top)
  • Where does the money earmarked for this building go? What will happen if you raise more money than you need?
  • The Save the Carnegie Steering Committee has a special, separate fund within the City's invested accounts. Your contribution goes specifically and only to the library preservation project. Our treasurer tracks every donation and every disbursement.

    The Friends of the Carnegie Library have created a second fund at the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. This fund is also fully tax-deductible and all contributions will go toward the Carnegie restoration and preservation project.

    Any extra money that we raise from donations will be put into the Carnegie endowment fund at the NW Minnesota Foundation, to help support and maintain the building for the future.    (top)
  • What is actually wrong with the building? What will the restorations include?
  • The Carnegie is actually in fair shape for a building of its age. We have benefited from having constant occupancy throughout its history. A 2012 condition assessment generated an initial scope of work for the project. That will be updated once the architectural planning & design are completed.

    The restoration plans are to situate the building on a new, waterproof foundation, improve the exterior and interior building access with an elevator for ADA compliance, repair damage to the stone fa├žade, and install new, energy-efficient windows, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. The extensive refurbishment of the interior will include new restrooms, and restoration of the historic woodwork including doors, frames and hardware, and stairs.    (top)
  • What's the tenative timeframe of the project?
  • We are looking at a timeframe of a little under 2 more years. The formal architectural planning & design stage began in January 2015, with groundbreaking planned in spring of 2016. We still have money to raise, and additional grant applications to write. The Carnegie also has a current tenant, the Watermark Art Center, and until the tenant actually departs, we will not be able to start any construction.     (top)
  • Will saving the building disrupt the parks planning occurring now?
  • No, the park project is focusing on the waterfront south of the Carnegie building for the most major improvements. The current plan includes the restored building, in Library Park, moved back from the highway.     (top)
  • Are there going to be any impact studies for environmental or historical issues with the site?
  • Yes, in autumn 2013, the City of Bemidji conducted Phase I and combined Phase II/III Archeological Surveys of the area of impact around the Carnegie. The results indicated that there would be no adverse effects of moving the building within its present location in Library Park. Once this information was available, we applied to the National Park Service and received their approval to move the Carnegie and maintain its listing on the National Register of Historic Places.     (top)
  • Can I see the full budget/fundraising plan? There may be something you've missed that I can point out or help out with.
  • By all means! The material is available for perusal in the City Clerk's office at City Hall, and the public is always welcome at the steering committee meetings.     (top)
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