The St. Paul Public/James T. Hill Library has a long history in St. Paul. The Library’s beginnings were in 1856 as a reading room at the local YMCA. In 1882, the first formal library was organized and opened. Plans for what began as the Central Library, took shape in the early 1900s thanks to rapid growth. The current building, designed by architect Electus Litchfield, was constructed from 1914 to 1917. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
Funds for the library came from railroad baron James J. Hill, a subscription
campaign, a bequest from Greenleaf Clark and a sale of bonds authorized by the
state legislature. The total cost of the facility, including the James T. Hill
Reference Library, was $1.5 million.
The building’s exterior is made of Tennessee marble while the interior is predominately
gray Mankato stone. Noteworthy architectural features include round arched
windows, Palladian style entrances, large stonework, the balustrade surrounding
the building, classical columnns and pilasters among others. The original
woodwork is gray stained maple.
Numerous renovations have taken place through the years. In 2014, the
Central Library was renamed the George Latimer Central Library, to honor the
former St. Paul mayor. Today, in addition to the main building, the St. Paul
Library system includes 12 branches and a bookmobile. The main branch is home
to about 350,000 books and other materials, and gets more than 300,000 visitors