City of Bemidji

First City on the Mississippi!

Frequently Asked Questions

Leave a Lasting Legacy!

1.  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.
2.  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; away from the traffic and damage of the road; and to improve the access to it.  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.
3. 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.  As the fundraising continues, we plan to hold several open meetings in order to get additional community input on the future uses for the building.  It is important to create a safe, accessible, and inviting space with improvements that also make the building more economically viable and energy efficient.
The current proposed 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.
4.     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.
5.  What is actually wrong with the building?  What will the restorations include?
The condition assessment has generated a detailed scope of work for the project.  At a total estimated cost of $1.6 million, this renovation will 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 façade,  repair the roof, and install new, energy-efficient windows, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. The extensive refurbishment of the interior will include new restrooms, a catering facility, and restoration of the historic woodwork including doors, frames and hardware, and stairs.

6.  Are there going to be any impact studies for environmental or historical issues with the site?
As part of the planning to move the building, we worked with the State Historic Preservation Office to do a full evaluation of the impact on the site.  No issues were found and the City was granted approval to move the building.