Albert Lea Public Library, 146 College Street W, Albert Lea, Minnesota

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Albert Lea Public Library

Address: 146 College Street W
Albert Lea, Minnesota
Freeborn County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Year built: 1903
Primary Style: Beaux Arts
Secondary Style: Classical Revival
Additions: Addition at rear north wall to allow for entry at the northwest corner of the building.
Major Alterations: Some/mostly intact
Historic Function: Library
Architect or source of design: Schick and Roth
Material of Exterior Wall Covering: Brick
First Owner: City of Albert Lea
Notes: Carnegie Grant: $13,000

Albert Lea Freeborn

Albert Lea Public Library, 146 College Street W, Albert Lea, Minnesota
(43.6485683° N, 93.3624319° WLatitude: 43°38′54.846″N
Longitude: 93°21′44.755″W
National Register of Historic Places Information
Certification date: July 16, 1987

The Albert Lea Public Library is one of 65 public libraries built in Minnesota with funds from Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation. Between 1899 and 1917, Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist contributed close to 1 million dollars towards library construction in Minnesota. This makes Minnesota the eighth largest recipient of Carnegie Library grants in the United States.



On April 11, 1902 the city of Albert Lea secured $13,000 from Carnegie to build the Albert Lea Public Library. Plans by prepared by the architectural firm Schick and Ross of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Andrew Roth, a carpenter and self-trained architect set up business with Hugo Schick, an Austrian immigrant who had studied architecture at the Polytechnical School and Academy of Arts in Vienna, Austria [1]. They also designed a Carnegie library in Wisconsin – the Sparta Free Library – which is on the National Register of Historical Places. The Albert Lea Public Library was completed and opened in 1903.

While the Carnegie grant was used to construct the building, the Albert Lea 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.

The Carnegie building served as the Albert Lea Public Library until 1968 when the library moved to the new City Center on East Clark Street. The original Carnegie building was then used as a local senior center until the mid 1990’s and currently houses offices. It is also interesting to note that the Albert Lea Public Library was the headquarters station for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) library project during World War Two.

Building Description

The Albert Lea Public Library is a one and a half storey Beaux Arts inspired building that rests on a raised basement. The basement story is constructed of rusticated stone and brick bands and is separated from the main story by a sandstone stringcourse. The roof is flat and a brick parapet rises above the cornice. The exterior is faced with red brick and trimmed with red sandstone. The main façade has several tall window openings, including eight rectangular openings on the west façade, two openings at the entrance on the southwest façade, and five openings on the south façade. Situated on a corner section the design of the building was angled to accentuate the view from the street front. The entrance is accessed by a flight of steps which leads to a large double door flanked by two sandstone columns. The original stone door hood is supported on brackets above a decorative roundel. A stone cornice wraps around the west, southwest and south facades and forms an arch over the entrance. The characters 'A.D. 1903' are rendered in the stone below the arch. The main story features brick pilasters with sandstone bases and capitals, and brick banding.

Alterations and additions to the original Carnegie building include a modest shed-roof addition located at the rear which allows for street level entry at the northwest corner of the building. The brick wing walls and concrete stairs of the entrance stoop have also been replaced.

Memories and stories


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Minnesota Carnegie Libraries Tour

Photo Gallery

Image:Sarah--WPA Albert Lea 1938.jpg

Works Progress Administration library project headquarters station, Albert Lea, 1938.

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