The Lunchtime Tourist

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August 13, 2002 // UPDATED 1:29 pm - April 30, 2007
By: Linda S. Koutsky
Linda S. Koutsky

Minneapolis Public Library

Before it's demolished and waiting to be included in Larry Millett's next edition of "Lost Twin Cities," let's pay some respect to the soon to be "old" public library.

Once called a "gold-plated bargain," the Downtown library was designed by architects Lang & Raugland and McEnary & Krafft (of Downtown's Farmers and Mechanics Bank). It opened in January 1961 at the cost of $8 million dollars and was the first building completed in the Gateway revitalization project. A library brochure reported that, "unlike its dim, old-fashioned predecessor, the new library will make generous use of natural light."

Designed as two structures, a marble-lined arcade stretched between the buildings, allowing access from Hennepin and Nicollet. Books occupied the 4-story North building, while the box-like structure contained a geodesic-domed planetarium and, for many years, a science museum complete with mummies.

The first floor is glass-walled with upper stories alternating window openings with Minnesota Rockville granite. The vertical striping of the window mullions and offset window pattern create visual texture and contrast of solid and void. Gold-toned anodized aluminum is used throughout including on the diamond embossed cantilevered entrance overhangs.

Though not of any particular school of architecture, the library is stylistically sandwiched between the International Style and general mid-20th-century


Upon opening, the state-of-the-art building featured free microfilm readers, coin-operated typewriters, pneumatic tubes with conveyors that whisked books to patrons in the reading rooms, and moving escalators!

Take a last glance at this building because you never know if some day you'll look back with regret and wonder how we could have torn down such a treasure. And when that happens, you can remember this quote carved in stone at the library's entrance --"Man builds no structure which outlives a book."

LUNCH TIP: Stop in for beer-battered fish and chips at Kieran's Pub & Restaurant, 330 2nd Ave. S.

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