Thursday, May 29, 2014

1947 Carnegie Lawther Library, Red Wing, Minnesota


1947 Carnegie Lawther Library, Red Wing, Minnesota

On December 14, 1901 the city of Red Wing secured $15,000 from Carnegie to build the Carnegie-Lawther Free Library. This initial sum was then raised to $17,000 to complete the building. The name 'Lawther' in the library's title recognises James Lawther who donated the land to the city in memory of his son. Plans were prepared by architect A.F. Gauger and the contractor was W.J. Longcor. The library was dedicated and opened on October 24, 1903.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Red Wing 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.

With the need for expansion, the city of Red Wing determined the Carnegie building could not be remodelled or expanded. The Carnegie-Lawther Free Library was demolished in 1968 and the new public library was completed in 1969.

The Carnegie-Lawther Free Library was a one storey brick building with a raised rusticated stone basement defined by a smooth stone water table. The Classical Revival style building was covered with a hipped roof and gabled entrance way. The building had many decorative features that referenced classical architecture. For example, the brick pilasters at each corner, the projecting entrance porch with full triangular pediment and the elaborate entablature. Enclosed in the pediment was a small round window. The portico featured various order of columns that stood on a stone pedestal. The different columns included free-standing Doric columns sited next to free-standing square columns and behind these were square pilasters flanking the doorway. Detail was extended even further around the doorway with mini pediment, columns and the words 'Library, A.D 1902'. The emphasis on the entrance space creates a grand opening to the interior of the building and is characteristic of Carnegie Library design. Fortunately we know about a lot the interior of the original building as it was described in the 'History of Goodhue County' published in 1909. At the time of construction the interior was finished with a highly polished golden oak with a cream and olive green colour scheme. In the reception room at the right of the entrance a wide painted border of thistles and shamrocks were in honor of the ancestry and heritage of Carnegie and Lawther. [Thanks to, you can read more by clicking here.]

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