Duluth’s Main Carnegie Library


Duluth is full of off-the-beaten-path historical gems. I was photographing another building in the area when I caught a glimpse of this beauty. Even from a distance, I knew it had to be a library. And if you’ve been around here for a while, you know I looooove old libraries!

Planning for the Duluth Public Library began in 1899. The city received funding from Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation to cover initial costs. When the library opened on April 19, 1902, visitors from all corners of the city came to see the grand building. They were wowed by the central dome with oculus, white marble staircase with bronze filigree balustrade, and Tiffany stained glass window in the reference room depicting Minnehaha standing in front of her namesake falls in Minneapolis. The window was originally part of the Minnesota Building at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. 

Two main rooms opened off the central hallway on the first floor, a children’s room and a periodicals room. Up the central staircase, visitors found the circulation desk and card catalog under the central dome. A reference room, a reading room with a large fireplace, and the stacks were located outward from the central dome area. Another Tiffany stained glass window was added in 1904 that showed Park Point and Lake Superior. In 1927, an addition was added to the rear of the building to house more stacks. The library served the community in this building until 1980, when it moved to a new location downtown. The Carnegie building was renovated and converted into offices. It is one of two remaining Carnegie libraries in the city.

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