Walter Library, 117 Pleasant St SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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Walter Library

Walter Library before Renovation
Current View of Walter Library
Address: 117 Pleasant SE
Minneapolis, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1924
Primary Style: Classical Revival
Major Alterations: Some/mostly intact
Historic Function: Library
Current Function: Library
Architect or source of design: Clarence H. Johnston
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
First Owner: University of Minnesota


Walter Library, 117 Pleasant St SE, Minneapolis, Minnesota
(44.9752717° N, 93.2368586° WLatitude: 44°58′30.978″N
Longitude: 93°14′12.691″W

Building Information

Walter Library was finished in 1924. It was built and designed in the Northrop Mall on the University of Minnesota. Originally, this library was dedicated for College of Science. Now, it has already become the most often-occupied library space for the whole University.



Building History

In 1924, after finishing construction, Walter Library was the primary library space in the University of Minnesota. It was design by Minnesota State architect Clarence H. Johnston and cost $1.4 million. It was a classical revival style library that was built with stone and bricks exterior, ornamental plaster ceiling and intricate woodwork(1).

Building Renovation

In 1989, however, university officials decided Walter Library was due for a major renovation. Not only was the library woefully out o date for 21st-century users, but it housed a major fire hazard: a 12-story, open steel-frame core of book stacks. 1997, the university decided the architecturally and historically significant library should be both resorted to its former splendor, and renovated and updated to house existing computer-related programs scattered throughout the campus, as well as a new Digital Technology Center. Bill Beyer, FAIA, principal, Stageberg Beyer Sachs explained, “Historical elements of the building were visually spectacular; digital-technology infrastructure would be largely invisible.”(2) The building now houses the Science & Engineering Library, Digital Technology Center, Learning Resources Center, Digital Media Center, CSE Dean’s office, and the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. Walter Library’s renovation was the opening to show the joints of the university’s developmental approaches by responding to architectural conservation and restoration.


Walter Library was built in a Classical Revival structure. After its restoration, it remains its 78-year-old classical glory and applies technologies, which creates a high-tech institutional space.

Building Exterior: A colonnaded portico facing Northrop Mall marks the building's main entrance. Relief panels—surmounted over three doorways framed in carved stone. The sculptured panels are richly symbolic, here representing various aspects of a liberal education.

The Ceilings: These ceilings, though they appear to be stonework or timber, are actually cast plaster. In the restoration, gold leaf was used instead of the original bronze paint that had oxidized to a green color shortly after the building opened.

Second Floor-Great Hall: The Great Hall on the second floor of Walter Library is a particular space that creates an atmosphere that gives educational and social environment in the building. The east and west side of the Great Hall have two reading rooms. As with the ceilings, gold leaf was used on the Corinthian caps of the green alpine marble columns. The walls are of Mankato travertine, and the relief carvings over the doors are Tennessee marble.

Memories and Stories

Frank Keller Walter, a native of Pennsylvania, Walter was born in 1874. After receiving a BLS and an MLS from the New York Library School, his first professional position was at the same institution from 1908 to 1919. He was appointed University of Minnesota Librarian in 1921. Upon his arrival, he participated in the planning of Walter Library, which was named for him in 1959.

Memories and stories

Photo Gallery

Related Links


Resources and Citations

1. "University Libraries."[[ University of Minnesota Website]]

2. Neiswander, Judy, Architecture Minnesota, Library legacy (Minnesota: , 1993) 26-31


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